Even more intriguing is the fact that Flores'
modern inhabitants have incredibly detailed legends about the existence of little
people on the island they call Ebu Gogo. The islanders describe the Ebu Gogo
as being about one metre tall, hairy and prone to "murmuring" to each
other in some form of language. They were also able to repeat what
islanders said to them in a parrot-like fashion.
The last evidence of this hominid at Liang Bua dates to just before
12,000 years ago, when a volcanic eruption snuffed out much of Flores'
unique wildlife. Yet there are hints that floresiensis could have
lived on much later than this. The last legend featuring the mythical
creatures dates to just 100 years ago. But Henry Gee, senior editor at
Nature magazine, goes further. He speculates that species like
floresiensis might still exist, somewhere in the unexplored tropical
forest of Indonesia.
The sophistication of stone tools found with floresiensis has
surprised some scientists given the human's small brain size of 380cc
(around the same size as a chimpanzee). It seems most likely that they
inherited the skill of making such tools from their (probable) Homo
erectus ancestors, rather than developing it themselves. Because the
remains are relatively recent and not fossilised, scientists are even
hopeful they might yield DNA, which could provide an entirely new
perspective on the evolution of the human lineage.
The fact that these little people feature in the legends of modern
Flores islanders suggests we might have to take tales of Leprechauns and
Yeti more seriously.