Bones prove the existence of 'hobbits'

The bones of at least nine more "hobbits" - a miniature species of human discovered two years ago - have been unearthed by scientists excavating the floor of a cave on a remote Indonesian island.

The discovery of the remains confirms that the miniature people, who grew to about 3 feet, were a truly ancient species and not merely pygmies or modern humans with diseased skulls.

A team of scientists from Australia and Indonesia said the latest remains include a lower jawbone of a second individual as well as the arms of the first individual whose partial skeleton was unearthed in 2003.

The scientists have also found evidence that the species, which they have called Homo floresiensis after the island of Flores where the find was made, used fire and hunted a dwarf species of elephant called stegadon.

Dating of the sedimentary layers that encased the latest bones suggest the H floresiensis was living in the cave as recently as 12,000 years ago, long after the demise of all other human species apart from modern man, Homo sapiens.

The scientists excavated a range of bones from the miniature people, the oldest dating to about 74,000 years ago, suggesting that the creatures had lived in and around the cave for at least 50,000 years.

The same team, led by Michael Morwood of the University of New England in Armidale, New South Wales, found the original skull and skeleton of the species, which they nicknamed "the hobbit" after the diminutive characters in JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

The skull was about the size of a chimpanzee's, and housed a brain not much bigger than a small grapefruit. Other scientists were amazed that a human-like creature could survive with such a small brain.

Some researchers suggested that the Australian team had got their dating wrong, or had mistaken the fossils for remains of modern humans with some form of aberrant dwarfism.

However, writing in the journal Nature, the scientists dismiss suggestions that the bones are of a modern dwarf with a growth-hormone deficiency or a person with microcephaly, when the braincase does not grow to its full size.

"Abnormal growth seems an unlikely explanation, as growth hormone-related dwarfism and microcephaly in modern humans result in normal limb and pelvic proportions," they say.

The arms, legs and pelvis of the hobbit are in proportion to the size of its skull but they share a greater similarity to fossils of ancient African hominids than to later humans, said Professor Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London.

"There are enough fossils showing distinctive features to rule out the possibility these are unusual or aberrant modern humans," Professor Stringer said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power