You may have heard of the Hobbit people whose remains were discovered on Flores Island in Indonesia not so long ago. Originally these were claimed to be ancient human ancestors but now a new study says that these creatures were NOT Homo sapiens.
The species is officially known as Homo floresensis and over 18k bones have been discovered from this hominid. Since their discovery they have been a mystery and there’s been all kinds of speculation about how they came to dwell on Flores Island and what they were. Most recently researchers have reexamined the bones and they’ve taken high resolution images of them. The results of that research have been published in the Journal of Human Evolution and those results are changing what we thought we knew about these hominids.
For one thing the new research seems to prove that the Hobbits were NOT small humans with some sort of genetic disease that resulted in them being so small. The claim has been made in the past that the Hobbits were descendants of Homo erectus who came to the island of Java. And the claim has also been made that the Hobbits became much smaller than H. erectus due to their living on an island in isolation. In fact SOME species do tend to get smaller if they live on islands in isolation BUT NOT ALL so that assumption doesn’t always hold true.
The Hobbits are believed to have lived 16kya and stood about 3 1/2 feet tall. They are thought to have had an average weight of about 55 pounds (25 kilos). It has been the believe also that they had small brains and large teeth, no chins, and receding foreheads. And compared to their apparent short legs it has been assumed that they had large feet. All of these characteristics might have been the result of what is known as “Island Dwarfism” which is an evolutionary process that is the result of long term isolation on an island with limited food and a lack of predators.
When the wrist bones of the Flores remains were examined they were shown to have a primitive and wedge shaped trapezoid bone that is commonly found in the wrists of apes and early hominids. However, this bone is NOT found in Neanderthals nor modern humans, H. sapiens. Remains of the Hobbits were first made public on 28 October 2004.
So, researchers have now concluded that their size was not the result of some disease and there seems to be no evidence that they were H. sapiens. So what were they? Apes?
Frankly, I think we’ve got some things mixed up when it comes to our ancient human ancestors and I do NOT buy into the assumptions that all that we’ve found are our ancestors because I think SOME of what we have found are the remains of apes and monkeys and NOT ancient human at all. Please consider the case of Java Man. When first discovered Java Man was thought to be the remains of a prehistoric ape on Java Island. However, the discoverer was later manipulated into thinking it was the remains of an ancient human ancestor. Why? Here’s why………….
During the time of the discovery of Java Man early anthropologists were looking for the legendary “Missing Link” between man and ape. At that time Asia was the focus for finding ancient human ancestor remains. The push was on to find that missing link and when Java Man was discovered every effort was made to pass it off as that missing link. BUT IT WASN’T! Instead researchers concluded that it was of the H. erectus species which would make it an ancient human ancestor but NOT the legendary missing link. Question is is Java Man an ancient human ancestor OR is it the remains of an ape as originally thought?
Java Man was discovered on the island of Java in Indonesia back in 1891 by Eugene Dubois. What he found was a tooth, skullcap, and thigh bone. The fossil find caused argument in science circles of the time and controversy. Many researchers of the day did NOT believe Java Man was the legendary missing link and many thought it was the fossil remains of some extinct ape. Some thought Java Man to be a primitive side branch NOT related to modern humans at all (Pithecanthropus).
It was not until the 1950s that Java Man (Pithecanthropus erectus) and Peking Man found in China were classified as H. erectus by Ernst Mayr and, thus, making them part of our evolutionary tree. In the 1970s some researchers believed that Java Man was a side branch and subspecies of H. erectus.
Personally, I consider Java Man to be the remains of a prehistoric ape. Perhaps some variant of Gigantopithecus? I’ll hold out for some DNA evidence before I change my opinion on what Java Man actually was AND I’ll do the same for H. floresensis too. Why? Because I think we’ve made a lot of WRONG assumptions in the human evolutionary story!! We’ve got SOME ancient apes mixed up with our REAL ancient ancestors and it’s time to SEPARATE THEM OU and let the bones fall where they may!!