Art and Literature News / Tolkien News

Hobbits Once Lived Among Us, According to New Archaeology

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.

Photo courtesy of University of Wollongong

Photo courtesy of University of Wollongong

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.

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  1. IIRC, the ratio of arms to legs is different than in Africanized modern humans (but not all that alien to other regional modern humans) The skulls are smaller, but the prefrontal cortex area is proportionally larger, that, combined with fire and stone tools just as sophisticated as those of modern humans suggests that they were/are just as intelligent. We don’t know a lot about extreme dwarfing (not to be confused with the Khazad, of course) so they might -be- modern humans – that is still debated. as to different species, there is no way to tell from the bones (not fossils) whether interbreeding was hypothetically possible or not. We should not think of them as ape-like, but as hobbit-sized humans, to get an accurate picture, although they were less technologically sophisticated than the hobbits of the Shire, of course. 🙂

  2. I’d read something like this somewhere before but they didn’t give a description of what the little people looked like, aside from being shorter than us. I thought it was fascinating and told everyone, not everyone found it as fascinating as me. Go figure.

    Just had to add, I seriously think my half-sister is part hobbit. She’s way shorter than me, eating, drinking and being merry all the time… plus I caught her shaving the tops of her feet once. She may be living proof hobbits really are still among us.

  3. Pretty intriguing evidence, I would say! Good job, Rachel! : )

  4. See! Tolkien really was writing history! Ten bucks says he’s got a Palantir stashed somewhere an that’s how he was able to learn everything. 😀

  5. What a great article. I love science. And hobbits.