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Updated: 31st December 1969 17:00

"Hobbits" were older than we thought

Remains of a tiny human cousin, discovered in Indonesia more than a decade ago, date back 50,000 years and more, not 12,000 years.

Homo floresiensis remains, found a decade ago, are 40,000 years older than we thought

Archaeologists at work in Liang Bua cave where Homo floresiensis fossils were found (Liang Bua Team)

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In 2003, scientists excavating a cave on the island of Flores in Indonesia discovered the remains of a group of tiny, primitive humans, who were dubbed Homo floresiensis, but popularly called the "hobbits." The discovery was immediately controversial, as their relationship to other human species, and the path that led them to Indonesia was mysterious.

The age of the fossils was also problematic, as the layering of deposits in the cave suggested that these people might have existed until as recently as 12,000 years ago. Now, a new and more complete analysis of the sediments in the cave, and direct dating of the fossils by Dr. Matthew Tocheri, Canada Research Chair in Human Origins in the Department of Anthropology at Lakehead University, and his colleagues, has shifted that date back to at least 50,000 years.

This, perhaps not coincidentally, is roughly when modern humans are thought to have entered Southeast Asia.

Related Links

- Paper in Nature
- Lakehead University release
Globe and Mailarticle
- Smithsonian Magazinearticle 
- Science Newsarticle
CBC Newsstory


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