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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsOK, so what do we know about the hobbits so far? Well, let's start off with the fossil remains. We have them stretching from maybe 100,000 years ago through to about 60,000 years ago at the site. That's with the latest data we now have from Liang Bua. Artifacts, we have as early as 190,000 years ago at the back of the cave, right through to, possibly, 50,000 years ago. So that's as late as we think the hobbit may have survived. The hobbit itself is definitely a new human species. We've learned that much over the last 10 years. The original specimen, LB1, was a meter and six centimeters tall, we estimate.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsAnd the other specimens of hobbits we found at the cave are even smaller. So the first one was the basketball player amongst the bunch. In terms of when did modern humans come into the site, and why did the hobbits go extinct, we don't really know the answer to that question at this particular point in time. We do know that the hobbits finished, and there was a volcanic ash layer just above. But also, modern humans arrived at the site shortly afterwards, or at around the same time. So we've got this tantalizing mystery, still, about the hobbits going extinct at the same time as a few different events were occurring.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 secondsBut the fact that modern humans were arriving at about that time might be the reason that the hobbits went extinct. And that's something we are really pursuing now and into the future.

What we know

Modern archaeological science addresses many questions about the mystery of the Hobbit.

Here is an overview of key parts of the puzzle that shed light on what we currently know about the life and times of Homo floresiensis:

  • Fossil remains at Liang Bua have been dated to between about 100, 000 and 60, 000 years old
  • Artefacts have been dated to as early as 190, 000 years ago (at the back of the cave) through to about 50, 000 years ago (nearer the entrance)
  • The Hobbit likely lived at the site from around 190, 000 years ago
  • It is thought that the Hobbit survived until as late as about 50, 000 years ago
  • The Hobbit is definitely a new human species
  • The type specimen (original skeleton) of the Hobbit is about 106 cm tall, but other specimens of hobbits found in the cave are shorter
  • A volcanic ash layer was identified above where hobbits are thought to have gone extinct
  • Hobbits lived with a whole range of animals that we no longer see around us today (e.g. Stegodon, giant Marabou stork, vulture)
  • Modern humans were passing through Southeast Asia en route to Australia at about the same time that the hobbits went extinct (50, 000 years ago).

“…we’ve got this tantalising mystery, still, about the hobbits going extinct at the same time as a few different events were occurring. But the fact that modern humans were arriving at about that time might be the reason that the hobbits went extinct. And that’s something we are really pursuing now and into the future” (Prof. Bert Roberts, geochronologist)

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This video is from the free online course:

Homo Floresiensis Uncovered: The Science of ‘the Hobbit’

University of Wollongong

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Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join:

  • Why Uncover the Past?
    Why Uncover the Past?
    video

    Professor Bert Roberts explains how modern archaeological science helps us trace out the human story and piece together the human family tree.

  • Excavations at Liang Bua
    Excavations at Liang Bua
    video

    The discovery of Homo floresiensis and ensuing excavations at Liang Bua

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