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The hobbit's life story, rewritten


New excavations place the diminutive 'hobbit' much earlier in hominin history. Amy Middleton reports.


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Liang Bua, a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, where the 'hobbit' was discovered. Now new evidence suggests they didn't cross paths with modern humans.
Smithsonian Digitisation Program Office / Liang Bua Team

The tiny human ancestor Homo floresiensis better known as the "hobbit" – may have disappeared much earlier than first thought, casting doubt on the possibility that this diminutive character shared the earth with modern-day humans.

Discovered in a cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia in 2003, the shorter, less symmetrical hominid has already been the subject of its share of controversy, and now researchers have a new hypothesis on when it may have lived.

Initially, excavators placed the hobbit’s remains at 12,000 to 95,000 years old, suggesting a relatively recent existence, and possibly suggesting that it lived around the same time modern humans roamed the globe.

But in the journal Nature today, a team of researchers led by Thomas Sutikna at the University of Wollongong and including some original excavation members, suggested a new timeline.

To reach their estimates, the team excavated some previously untouched sections of the Flores cave.

According to their analysis, these new sediment layers date the hobbit's remains at between 60,000 and 100,000 years old.

The researchers also say stone tools that were found with the hobbit may range between 50,000 and 190,000 years old.

Given this new timeline, whether the hobbit encountered modern humans remains to be seen.

Related reading:
Looks like the hobbit had neighbours – but who were they?

Amy middleton.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1
Amy Middleton is a Melbourne-based journalist.
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