Discovering the Hobbit of Flores, Indonesia
PROFESSOR RICHARD ROBERTS at the University of Wollongong, NSW, talks about the remarkable 2003 discovery of Homo floresiensis – the tiny species of prehistoric human that has been dubbed the Hobbit.
The ancient hominid was only 1m (3.5 feet) tall and her bones were embedded within silty clay 6m down, displaying disproportionately large feet for such a small frame. Found on Indonesia’s island of Flores by Professor Mike Morwood and Thomas Sutikna, ‘Hobbit’ was announced to the world in 2004 as Liang Bua 1 (LB1), and she has held international scientific attention ever since.
Although her bones were demineralised and soft (often described as having the consistency of wet blotting paper), LB1’s skull and skeleton were very well preserved. One estimate later dated her to 18,000 years old, which indicates her species overlapped with our own in time.
But they may or may not have lived with them on Flores itself, as modern humans did not arrive until an estimated 11,000 years ago.
If this dating holds true, it could mean that H. floresiensis is the human species to have most recently coexisted with our own on the planet – Neanderthals, for example, were extinct by perhaps 30,000 years ago.