Human hand in hobbit extinction? Indonesia's fireplace discovery suggests so

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Hobbit Extinction
Archaeological excavations of Holocene deposits at Liang Bua on the Indonesian island of Flores are seen in progress in this undated handout picture courtesy of the Liang Bua Team. The human species dubbed "The Hobbit" vanished from its home on the Indonesian island of Flores much earlier than previously thought, according to scientists who indicated that our species may have had a hand in the demise of these diminutive people. Reuters/Liang Bua Team

Mounting evidence suggests that ancestors of modern humans were responsible for the extinction for the only known population of hobbits. The hobbits, around 104 centimetres tall, were using stone tools about 50,000 years ago.

However, they mysteriously vanished soon after. Liang Bua cave’s hearth discovery revealed that modern humans and hobbits occupied the site within 9,000 years of each other. Scientists believe that Homo sapiens were using fire in hobbit caves at least 41,000 years ago.

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Now, the scientists are searching for evidence to remove any remaining alibi modern humans might have. If hobbits and humans were living at the same place and at the same time that may explain hobbit extinction. Even though the hobbits were using stone tools, it is not known whether they mastered fire. The hearth remains were most likely left by humans.

In 2003, an international team of scientists discovered remains of a previously unknown species, Homo floresiensis, in Liang Bua cave. Experts believed that the species lived as recently as 12,000 years ago. However, the scientists dated the remains between 190,000 and 60,000 years old. The most recent hobbit stone tools were believed to be 50,000 years old.

“We now know that the hobbits only survived until around 50,000 years ago at Liang Bua. We also know that modern humans arrived in Southeast Asia and Australia at least 50,000 years ago, and most likely quite a bit earlier. This new evidence, which is some of the earliest evidence of modern human activity in south-east Asia, narrows the gap between the two hominin species at the site,” University of Wollongong’s Dr. Mike Morley, who is also the lead researcher, said in a statement.

Speaking on the time period of 50,000 years, paleoanthropologist Matt Tocheri of Canada's Lakehead University and the Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program said in an earlier report, that many kinds of animals disappeared during that time and that included giant Komodo Dragon lizards, small elephants, vultures and huge marabou storks.

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