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Did ‘Hobbit’ ancestor get to Flores 1 million years ago?
Stone tools push back date of early human habitation on Flores
Remains of Homo floresiensis, nicknamed the ‘hobbits’ of human evolution, have so far been found only on the island of Flores, Indonesia, from about 95,000 - 17,000 years ago. But who was its ancestor, and when did they get to Flores? Discoveries of stone tools on Flores suggest that premodern humans were there a million years ago, at least 120,000 years earlier than previously thought. "Whatever species made it to the island 1 million years ago, it was probably an ancestor of Homo floresiensis," says William Jungers, an anthropologist at Stony Brook University in New York.
Previous stone tool discoveries showed that a yet unknown early human had arrived on Flores by 880,000 years ago, suggesting that this species might have exterminated some of the Flores’s indigenous animals, including the pygmy elephant-like Stegodon and giant tortoises, which both disappeared at around the same time. The new finds imply that the hobbit's ancestors coexisted with these animals for much longer, and that a natural disaster may have caused their disappearance.
Smithsonian paleoanthropologist, Dr. Matt Tocheri, will be part of an international team of scientists looking for more clues on Flores about the ancestry of Homo floresiensis later this summer.
Brumm, A., Jensen, G.M., van den Bregh, G.D., Morwood, M.J., Kurniawan, I., Aziz, F., Storey, M., 2010. Hominins on Flores, Indonesia, by one million years ago. Nature advance online: doi:10.1038/nature08844