The question: Did Miniature Humans Populate Earth 12,000 Years Ago?
In 2003, a team of Australian-Indonesian archaeologists made a remarkable discovery in Liang Bua Cave, which is located on the Island of Flores, in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. The group was searching for evidence of the original human migration when they discovered a collection of unusual hominoid bones and artifacts. Partial skeletons of nine individuals were unearthed, including one complete cranium. These remains have been the subject of intense research and debate as they appear to have human features, but are miniature in size.
This has caused some scientists to claim that the bones represent a species distinct from modern humans. The new species has been labeled Homo floresiensis (nicknamed Hobbit).
The hominoid is noted for its small body and brain size and for its relatively recent survival. Recovered alongside the skeletal remains were stone tools from archaeological horizons ranging from 94,000 to 13,000 years ago. Some of the tools are sophisticated stone implements. The artifacts are all of the size considered appropriate for a 1-meter-tall human population.
Archaeologist Mike Morwood and his colleagues have proposed that a variety of features, both primitive and derived, identify these bones as belonging to a new species. A study of the bones and joints of the arm, shoulder and lower limbs concluded that H. floresiensis was more similar to early humans and apes than modern humans.
Some less obvious features that might distinguish H. floresiensis from modern Homo sapiens is the form of the teeth, and the lesser angle in the head of the humerus (upper arm bone). Each of these distinguishing examples has been heavily scrutinized by certain members of the scientific community.
Aside from a smaller body size, the overall specimen seems to resemble Homo erectus. Additional features used to argue for the discovery of a new population of previously unidentified hominids include the absence of a chin, the relatively low twist of the arm bones, and the thickness of the creature’s leg bones. The feet of H. floresiensis are unusually flat in relation to the rest of the body. As a result, when walking, the creature would have to bend its knees further back than modern people do. For this reason, it was not able to move very fast.
The species toes have an unusual shape and the big toe is very short. Local geology suggests that a volcanic eruption on the Island of Flores approximately 12,000 years ago could have been responsible for the demise of H. floresiensis, along with other local fauna, including the elephant species Stegodon. In early December of 2004, paleoanthropologist Teuku Jacob removed most of the Hobbit remains from their repository. The priceless artifacts were damaged upon return. The only pelvis was smashed, ultimately destroying details that reveal body shape, gait and evolutionary history.