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Education Books Science Technology

New Study Shows Mystery 'Hobbits' Not Humans Like Us (phys.org) 127

According to a study published on Monday, diminutive humans that died out on an Indonesian island some 15,000 years ago were not homo sapiens, but rather a different species. The Homo floresiensis, known as "hobbits" since they looked like small humans, were found to be a distinct species based on the layers in the specimens' skulls. This discovery could be the end of one of the most heated arguments in anthropology.
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New Study Shows Mystery 'Hobbits' Not Humans Like Us

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  • by the_womble ( 580291 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @06:01AM (#51526199) Homepage Journal

    So, they were called hobbits because they look like small humans. They are NOT humans, but they still LOOK like humans, just like Tolkein's hobbits (the commonest association), so the name is appropriate.

    • Doesn't the fact that they are named Homo floresiensis - not Homo sapiens - already mean they weren't considered humans? Not sure what the news is here.
    • Hobbits were humans in Tolkien's universe much closer to humans than the Orcs were to Elves because they weren't twisted by magic.

    • I am curious about many mythological creatures were based off of prehistoric encounters with creatures and subspecies.

      Neanderthals seem to have many aspects we would point out to Trolls and Ogres.
      We have had a bunch of species that were around when we were too, many of them having divergent evolutionary traits. As humans had expanded we were in competition. And humans had the ability to win. But with such challenges, I would expect word of mouth tales about the evil monsters who once inhabited the land.

        • Wow, a seriously bad article. Nearly everything it says about Basque (except for its being a language isolate) is wrong. E.g. "The structure of the Basque language is also very distinctive, it is said to contain only nouns, verbs, and suffixes." Hundreds of languages fit that description: having suffixes and lacking adjectives. But Basque isn't one of them; it has adjectives (see e.g. http://mylanguages.org/basque_... [mylanguages.org], or the Wikipedia article on Basque grammar), and at least two prefixes. And the arti

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @06:05AM (#51526205)

    How do we have to imagine this? More "english gentlemen drinking brandy in front of a stuffed Lion, disagreeing slightly", or more "Thunderdome!!! Two opinions enter, one opinion leaves!"...?

    • I imagine this like more like a grad student researching for a thesis in a library and then finding out a matter that happened the be not yet methodically proven. Then he or she resolves to do the boring work to get his or her doctorate.
      • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @08:50AM (#51526599)

        The archeologists who discovered the bones said it had all the hallmarks of a distinct homo species right from when they first discovered it. They published papers to that effect 10 years ago. This was however controversial due to the very young age of the bones. No other homo species except us is known to have survived past the last ice age, the claim that these did - and were not the same species as us - was very controversial. Especially since the fossils were so recent that it is entirely possible that humans could have encountered them (remember - most dead bodies don't leave fossils - if the fossils we have is a mere 15-thousand years old, they could have been alive as recently as 5000 or even 1000 years ago).
        So a lot of scientists were understandably skeptical about their conclusions even though they were seriously thorough, they didn't publish their findings for almost two years after the discovery as they spent all that time checking and rechecking to test every likely counter-theory and only published it when all those tests were negative and they could find no other possible explanation.

        That it remained controversial despite that just shows that contradicting pet theories can upset people - and sometimes, the pet theories are wrong. Interestingly, if any homo species was going to survive the ice age without our technology these guys had about the best shot. Living on a small tropical island - they probably barely even noticed it happened.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Especially since the fossils were so recent that it is entirely possible that humans could have encountered them (remember - most dead bodies don't leave fossils - if the fossils we have is a mere 15-thousand years old, they could have been alive as recently as 5000 or even 1000 years ago).

          An encounter with modern humans is very likely. The people on the next island has folklore telling of small people in the "hobbit island". It has detailed descriptions, some with match the bones and some which can't be seen on the bones. For instance the women had long saggy breasts and to get around, they hung them on the shoulders. The folklore is mainly centered on one fact and that is those small people were extremely aggressive and they would likely kill you if you would be stupid enough to go to their

          • I know about the folklore but thanks for the detailed explanation. I didnt know any details about it.

      • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @09:06AM (#51526661) Journal
        The bones and artifacts were turned over to the Indonesian government shortly after they were discovered by some Aussie scientists, since then getting a look at them has been extraordinarily difficult, even for the people who dug them up. Lack of access to the fossils is the reason we have been hearing arguments rather than test results. Perhaps the academic who was jealously guarding the bones has retired?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "heated arguments in anthropology"

    Two men enter, one man leaves.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      In this case one species of man entered the argument, and two left.

  • I'm over six feet tall. Everywhere I go it feels like I'm surrounded by a sea of people who are five feet or less.
    While there's a fair number of other six footers, but I wonder if we're somehow breeding a new species of short people.
    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )
      Pretty sure the numbers show that we're getting taller, by and large. Good example of how anecdotal evidence isn't evidence. ;)
    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      I blame the airlines :)

    • You should go to Hong Kong some time. I felt tall for the first time in my life (I'm a 5'8" male). At least until I got into an elevator with some Germans...

  • Speak for yourself meatbag
  • Were Neanderthals human? Does the fact that they could interbreed with Home Sapiens make them human?

    What exactly is the definition of human? The dictionary just says human = people.

    So, were the hobbits people? If so, then they were humans, just like us, even if they weren't Homo Sapiens.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Were Neanderthals human?

      They are called "homo neanderthalensis", which is Latin for "human of Neanderthal".

    • by Punko ( 784684 )


      Lets just say this: Human is not the same as Homo sapiens. There are many members of our species that I would not classify as human beings - primarily for their lack of humanity.

      Members of Homo sapiens are persons (biological into legal) and under American terminology, natural persons.

      It is not sufficient for two organism types to be able to breed to be the same species, only that they have viable offspring. A mule is sterile, as is a liger.

      These "hobbits" and Neanderthals, if alive today, would a
    • "Neanderthals" were homo sapiens.

      The word comes from the valley where the fossils were found.

      Everyone agrees the surrounding fossils were homosapiens. That is the context.

      The few different ones had bendier bones ... rickets. A deformity caused by a lack of calcium.

      All "neanderthal" specimens in the fossil records are openly contested by secular scientists.
  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @08:38AM (#51526551) Homepage

    were found to be a distinct species based on

    ...the abstract and ill-defined concept of "species."

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Wednesday February 17, 2016 @09:38AM (#51526785)

    Short guys don't get dates, and since money had not been invented yet, the hobbits were selected out.

  • It would be very cool to have a pet one of these. Start the Chinese clone factories up.

What this country needs is a dime that will buy a good five-cent bagel.

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