Have you ever finished your favorite Tolkien story, laid the book down next to you, and wished that it was all real? Well, Middle-earth and its inhabitants may be more real than you think! New fossil evidence has been unearthed on the Indonesian island of Flores, and the find is pretty interesting. These new bones are attributed to Homo floresiensis, otherwise known as the “Hobbit Human.” This recent discovery includes wrist bones which are identical to fossil remains previously discovered on the island in 2003.
While some critics suggested that the small stature of the 18,000-year- old skeleton was simply a human with a condition called microphalia, brain scans in 2007 revealed that the hobbit’s brain did not show signs of microcephalia, a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a smaller head circumference and small stature . Now, with these recent findings, scientists are even more convinced that the small people discovered on the island of Flores were not simply modern humans, but their own species. Tolkien fans, do you know what this means? It means that fantasy has become reality! Hobbits once roamed the earth along with our own human ancestors!
According to Caley Orr, the lead author of a recent report in the Journal of Human Evolution, these “hobbits” were 3’6” tall and very “similar to modern humans in many respects.” Not only did these hobbits walk on two legs, they also had small canine teeth and lived a “caveman” lifestyle similar to our human ancestors. Along with the wrist bones, stone tools, remains of butchered animals, and evidence of the usage of fire were found in the cave as well. Tracy Kivell, a paleoanthropologist from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology adds that H. floresiensis’ use of stone tools was particularly interesting: Despite its primitive hand and wrist, it was still able to create and make use of stone tools in a manner different from Neanderthals and humans.
However, just like hobbits and men from J.R.R Tolkien’s famous stories had differences between the two, so the H. floresiensis is also different from modern humans. These hobbits were slightly more ape-like in their bone structure with arms that were longer than their legs; furthermore their skulls had no bony chins resulting in ovular face shapes. The brain-size for these hobbit humans is inferred to be small, thus they were more in the IQ range of chimpanzees.
The most incredible feature of this new species of tiny humans however, is perhaps the size of their feet. Just like Bilbo Baggins and the rest of the hobbits in the Shire whose “feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair,” the remains of H. floresiensis indicate that the feet were long compared to the legs, just like a hobbit’s large feet. In the sea of news surrounding Peter Jackson’s recent installment of the first Hobbit film, what is more phenomenal than the idea that hobbits once existed?
The question remains however, what were hobbits doing so far away from the Shire on an island in Indonesia? Perhaps they were Tooks out on a grand adventure. We may never know that part of the story.