"Hobbits" had million-year history on Indonesian island, suggests new evidence

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Washington, March 18 (ANI): A new study has suggested that newfound stone tools on the Indonesian island of Flores indicate that the evolutionary history of the "hobbits" in the region stretches back a million years, which is 200,000 years longer than previously thought.

The hobbit mystery was sparked by the 2004 discovery of bones on Flores that belonged to a three-foot-tall (one-meter-tall), 55-pound (25-kilogram) female with a grapefruit-size brain.

The tiny, hobbit-like creature-controversially dubbed a new human species, Homo floresiensis-persisted on the remote island until about 18,000 years ago, even as "modern" humans spread around the world, according to experts.

"Found in million-year-old volcanic sediments, the newly discovered tools are "simple sharp-edged flakes" like those found at nearby sites on Flores-sites dated to later time periods but also associated with hobbits and their ancestors," said study co-leader Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia.

The finding implies that a culture of stone tool wielding ancient humans, with origins in Africa, survived on the island for much longer than previously believed, according to the new research.

"That's exciting," because it suggests that by a million years ago, early humans had covered more ground on their exodus from Africa than previously thought, said paleontologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum of London.

The stone-and-bone record had suggested that the hobbits' ancestors-perhaps upright-walking-but-small-brained Homo erectus-left Africa about 1.5 million years ago and reached Flores by 880,000 years ago.

Once there, it's been thought, the hobbit ancestors quickly hunted a pygmy elephant species and a giant tortoise species to extinction.

The date of the newly discovered stone tools, though, suggests elephant and tortoise died off a hundred thousand years after Flores's colonization, indicating that the early Flores colonizers' role in the extinction "must have been minimal," study co-leader Brumm said.

What's more, these early colonizers could have been more primitive than H. erectus-"that is our working hypothesis," he added. (ANI)

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