Floresian man (Homo floresiensis) is a dwarf human species that may have lived 60-100 thousand years ago on the Indonesian island of Flores. H. floresiensis is also called the "hobbit" - because of the miniature, approximately 1 meter, height and small brain volume (three times smaller than that of a modern person). For the first time, the remains of H. floresiensis were discovered in 2003 in the Liang Bua cave - these were several skeletons, next to which there were primitive stone tools and burnt animal bones. Some anthropologists believe that the fossils belong to H. sapiens with pathologies, but others believe that H. floresiensis was a separate species of people. British anthropologist Gregory Fort, a former fellow at the University of Alberta, argues that H. floresiensis is a separate species. Moreover, that he did not die out, but still lives on Flores. His new book Between Ape and Man: An Anthropologist Tracks Hidden Hominoid (Pegasus Books, 2022) is dedicated to this, according to LiveScience.
Fort has been doing fieldwork on the island since 1984 and says he has heard stories of small, hairy humanoid creatures living in the forest. In his book, the scientist, for example, talks about meeting a local resident who claimed to have somehow buried the corpse of a creature that could not be either an ape or a man. He had straight blond hair on his body, a well-shaped nose and a stump of a tail. In total, Fort collected 30 eyewitness accounts of creatures that resembled H. floresiensis.
Could the “hobbit” even intersect with modern man? The official version is not, since traces of the presence of people in the Liang Bua cave date back to a later time. It is hypothesized that around 60,000 years ago changes took place that greatly changed the local landscape, and this caused Homo floresiensis to migrate to other parts of the island in order to forage in more suitable habitats.
In 2014, archaeologists discovered at another site on Flores, Mata Menge, an even earlier skeleton with a fossilized lower jaw and hominin teeth, dated to about 700,000 years ago. These are thought to be the remains of a much earlier population of H. floresiensis. All this suggests that the "hobbit" lived on Flores for a very long time, but it is unlikely that it coexisted with modern man. Although it is theoretically possible: the indigenous peoples of Australia have myths that clearly tell about real events that happened thousands of years ago, for example, about the fall of a meteorite. Something similar could have happened on Flores, and this may explain the prevalence of stories about dwarf creatures living in the forests. But could it be that the real H. floresiensis could be hiding from researchers today? Scientists often discover unknown species that were considered extinct, but a person, even a short one, is still not an insect or a bird.
There are other mysteries in the existence of H. floresiensis, if indeed it was a separate species. The bones and tools found at Liang Bua and Mata Menge are separated from each other by hundreds of thousands of years - a huge period of time. "Hobbits" are known to have used cobblestones to make stone tools that could be used to cut plants or meat, or carve other tools out of wood. Whether they made fire or hunted large prey is unclear.
But the main question is where did this species come from. Hobbit teeth are similar to those of other Homo species, Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. And unlike H. sapiens, H. erectus moved from Africa to what is now the island of Java before H. floresiensis. This raises the possibility that the "hobbit" is descended from H. erectus, and that its small body size is a consequence of living on an island, the so-called island dwarfism. However, this hypothesis is not flawless; it is contradicted, for example, by the fact that some features of the body structure of H. floresiensis are closer to earlier human ancestors than H. sapiens. Perhaps its ancestor was an unknown species that left Africa before H. erectus.
It is known that H. sapiens interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans, the DNA of the latter is preserved in modern humans. However
unknown genes in the modern Indonesian genome that could go back to the "hobbit" have not been found. There is a possibility that H. floresiensis lived on Flores until modern humans arrived there and destroyed it, intentionally or accidentally.