An ancient species of pint-sized humans discovered in the tropics of Indonesia may have met their demise earlier than once believed, according to an international team of scientists who re-investigated the original finding.
Published in the journal Nature this week, the group challenges reports that these inhabitants of remote Flores island co-existed with modern humans for tens of thousands of years.
They found that the youngest age for Homo floresiensis, dubbed the ‘Hobbit’, is around 50,000 years ago not between 13,000 and 11,000 years as initially claimed.
Led by Indonesian scientists and involving researchers from Griffith University’s Research Centre of Human Evolution (RCHE) the team found problems with prior dating efforts at the cave site, Liang Bua.
“In fact, Homo floresiensis seems to have disappeared soon after our species reached Flores, suggesting it was us who drove them to extinction,” says Associate Professor Maxime Aubert, a geochronologist and archaeologist at RCHE, who with RCHE’s Director Professor Rainer Grün measured the amount of uranium and thorium inside Homo floresiensis fossils to test their age.
“The science is unequivocal,’’ Aubert said.
“The youngest Hobbit skeletal remains occur at 60,000 years ago but evidence for their simple stone tools continues until 50,000 years ago. After this there are no more traces of these humans.”
While excavating at the limestone cave of Liang Bua in 2003, archaeologists found bones from diminutive humans unlike any people alive today. The researchers concluded the tiny cave dwellers evolved from an older branch of the human family that had been marooned on Flores for at least a million years. It was thought that this previously unknown population lived on Flores until about 12,000 years ago.
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