In 2004, scientists discovered more remains of the
strange, small people that once lived on the island of Flores,
The announcement, which detailed a single, partial
skeleton, caused a sensation when it was claimed to be a human species
which was new to science. Homo floresiensis, as it was called,
was little more than a metre tall and apparently lived 18,000 years
ago [a figure which has since been revised upwards].
In 2005 the same team announced via the Nature journal
that it had skeletal remains from at least nine of the 'Hobbit-like'
individuals. The new discoveries included missing parts of the old
skeleton - designated LB1 after the caved dig site at Liang Bua - and
a collection of other bones, such as jaw and cranial fragments, a
vertebra, arm and leg bones, toes and fingers.
The team, led by Michael Morwood from the University
of New England, Armidale, Australia, were able to state that the
specimens had helped to build a more rounded picture of LB1, with
additional evidence of the little people's hunting and fire-making
The researchers added that they were more convinced than
ever that Homo floresiensis represented a distinct species
and not some diseased modern human individual (Homo sapiens)
as some sceptics had suggested.
The finds further demonstrated that LB1 was not
just an aberrant or pathological individual but was representative
of a long-term population. A critical line in the argument is the
length of time which the latest collection of remains represented
- possibly 80,000 years - making a disease explanation for the
cause of the little people's stature and shape an unlikely one.
The team contended that Homo floresiensis,
with its 380-cubic-cm-sized brain, was the outcome of a phenomenon
known as endemic or island dwarfing. This sees isolated species,
released from the pressures of predation but constrained by limited
resources, evolving either smaller or larger forms than would
otherwise be the case.