In DepthHuman Origins

Likely hobbit ancestors lived 600,000 years earlier

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Science  10 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6291, pp. 1260-1261
DOI: 10.1126/science.352.6291.1260

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Summary

From the moment the announcement of a 1-meter-tall ancient human nicknamed "the hobbit" shocked the world in 2004, supporters and sceptics alike have longed for more fossils. After the first burst of discoveries, the team kept digging, at the original find site and at other sites in Southeast Asia. But they found no human fossils—until now. This week the team announces that they have found specimens of a tiny hominin at a site called Mata Menge on the Indonesian island of Flores, 74 kilometers from the hobbit's home in Liang Bua Cave. The haul is meager—a fragment of jaw and isolated teeth—but the fossils' diminutive size suggests they belong to the hobbit's species, Homo floresiensis, or a precursor to it. They are securely dated to 700,000 years ago, hundreds of thousands of years earlier than the hobbit—and they are about 20% smaller. To many researchers, the finds suggest that a lineage of tiny humans evolved on Flores, emerging surprisingly soon after H. erectus, their likely ancestor, arrived about 1 million years ago.