Monday, November 10, 2008

The Flores hobbit: Alien from Earth?

A fascinating documentary on PBS's Nova series tomorrow night, about a recent discovery on Indonesia's Flores island that rocked the archaeology world.

It was Homo Floresiensis, the skull an adult female from roughly 18,000 years ago, who in size was no bigger than a three-year-old child. Labeled a human 'hobbit,' after the miniature humans of the Lord of the Rings books, it was a once-in-a-lifetime find ... that led to other discoveries in the same huge cave, of hobbits existing there for 95,000 years.

Observers speculate that the tiny female could be the result of either a dwarfism-related illness, or the 'island effect,' where species evolve in strange and unique ways (like Flores' pygmy elephant). Or it could represent an entirely new branch of the human family tree, with similarities to other ancient finds like Lucy from Africa, who herself dates back three million years.

But Flores' specimen was so close to us timewise, in the grand scheme of things, that descendants may have even lived in recent history. Makes you stop and think about the wonder of it all.

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