More Hobbit Stories

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryIn an area of study that rarely if ever receives any limelight in the news media, a debate is going on about the newly found humanoid ancestor called Homo floresiensis, or nicknamed “the Hobbit” after the famous novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. The humanoid, believed to be a newly discovered species of humans, was only three feet tall and had a skull and human brain capacity one-third the size of a normal modern day human. However, the Hobbit knew how to make stone tools, knew how to make and use fire, and knew how to hunt animals. We know all this because of the remains of fireplaces and animal bones as well as stone tools that have been found in spots with those remains of Homo floresiensis.

The main dispute now occurring about the Hobbit is whether this humanoid was a totally separate species, or a “deformed” part of the well-known species Homo Erectus? We know that Homo Erectus had come to the Island of Flores where the Hobbit was found because Homo Erectus remains have been discovered on this remote island in Indonesia. The question is did Homo Erectus eventually evolve into the Hobbit because it was cut off from all other Homo Erectus migrations? This is the theory held by the Japanese scientist Yousuke Kaifu of the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. Because, according to Kaifu, this species of Homo Erectus had been isolated for so long that some Homo Erectus produced a mutant strain that evolved into a new species.

Some other scientists have argued that the Hobbit might be an off-shoot of an earlier humanoid named Homo Habilis. However, Kaifu rejects this notion, saying that there has never been any evidence that Homo Habilis ever left Africa and migrated to Asia, let alone to the remote Island of Flores. Some other scientists have speculated that the Hobbit might be a deformed species of Homo Erectus. This idea has also been rejected since a deformed species could not have had the intelligence of knowing how to use fire, make tools and successfully hunt for food. Of course, none of this answers who Homo floresiensis was, and if this was indeed a truly undiscovered species of humans. We know that the Hobbit had existed until about 13,000 years ago when it disappeared. Dating has confirmed that it lived at the same time as modern humans. What happened to the Hobbit? If it died out, why? Was there a special disease that killed it? Was it killed off by modern humans? Did a climate change occur that wiped out its food source? Like so many things about the human ancestral family tree (which is beginning to resemble more of a bush), we still need to find the missing pieces to fill the puzzle.

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