A decade of debate has followed the discovery of Homo floresiensis, nicknamed the Hobbit, by Australian archaeologist Mike Morwood, including claims the remains are those of a modern human with Down syndrome rather than a unique species.
A UK expert now offers a new theory as to the human-ancestor’s origins.
Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London, suggests the hobbit may belong to the ancient, pre-human group Australopithecus which includes the 3.2-million-year-old remains of “Lucy”.
The remains of the Hobbit were found in Liang Bua, a cave on the remote Indonesian island of
Flores, ten years ago.
The find was remarkable, suggesting that primitive hominins persisted well into the time of
anatomically modern humans and stoking the debate about how tool-using hominins arose and
spread from Africa.
Stringer does not believe that the Hobbit is a dwarfed, diseased modern human — as some scientists have suggested — nor does he necessarily agree with the dominant theory that the species is derived from a population of Homo erectus which evolved smaller bodies in response to the limited resources available on an island.
He argues for a possible descent from the pre-human group Australopithecus, of which the similarly sized, 3.2-million-year-old “Lucy” is the most famous example.
“It would mean that a whole branch of the human evolutionary tree in Asia had been missing until those fateful discoveries in Liang Bua,” writes Stringer in the journal Nature.
Lucy was discovered in Ethiopia.
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