Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hobbit origins pushed back

Stone tools reveal that hominins lived on the Indonesian island of Flores a million years ago.

When the remains of tiny hominins — nicknamed hobbits — were found on the isolated Indonesian island of Flores in 2003, it sparked an epic hunt to understand the origins of these diminutive cousins of modern humans.

Now, discoveries of stone flakes used as primitive tools on the island suggest that the hobbit's ancestors were there a million years ago, at least 120,000 years earlier than previously thought (A. Brumm et al. Nature doi:10.1038/nature08844; 2010). "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.

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