'The Hobbit', an Ancient Human Relative, Lived on Indonesian Island SulawesiBy Russell Westerholm
With the discovery that an ancient human relative known as "the hobbit" inhabited the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, a team of researchers learned new details about its evolution.
Published in the journal Nature, the new study suggests Homo floresiensis occupied the island earlier than believed. Named for J.R.R. Tolkein's characters in his "Hobbit" novel series, Homo floresiensis was notably short at three feet tall.
According to Live Science, researchers previously placed the hobbit on Flores, another Indonesian island south of Sulawesi.
"It now seems that before modern humans entered the island, there might have been pre-modern hominins on Sulawesi at a much earlier stage," study lead author Gerrit van den Bergh, of the University of Wollongong's Centre for Archaeological Science, said in a press release. "Sulawesi, like Flores, could have been a natural laboratory for human evolution under isolated conditions."
The researchers detailed stone tools found during excavations taking place between 2007 and 2012 that placed the ancient human relatives on Sulawesi. The finding suggests the hobbit migrated across the Indonesian islands.
"There might have been a totally different human species living on Sulawesi before modern humans arrived with boats around 50,000 years ago," van den Bergh told Live Science. "Evolving under isolation on an island under hundreds of thousands of years in isolation, the outcome may have resulted in a distinct human species, different from Homo erectus or Homo floresiensis."