It's All In The Wrist

January 21, 2013

Torah Kachur

Hobbits existed.


Not Tolkien's creation.  But real life miniature people.  Not little people either.  Hobbits, but not "Hobbits", small people just not "little people.


Let me explain - the Hobbit is the slang name for a new type of hominid called Homo floresiensis who lived in Indonesia for 70,000 years, finally going extinct 18,000 years ago.  These little critters were 3 feet tall and were most certainly human-like, they could cook, communicate and hunt probably better than you or I.  The existence of H. floresiensis isn't particularly new, the first fossil was discovered in 2003. 


I was interviewed on the topic in time for the Peter Jackson remake of the beloved novel on our national radio, CBC.  You can find my face-palming interview here:


What' new?  A study was published last week in the Journal of Human Evolution that studied the wrist bones of skeletons discovered in Indonesia.  They found, in agreement with most anthropologists today, that the hobbit is a distinct species.  See, labeling a skeleton a new species is bound to ruffle some feathers, and the discovery of H. floresiensis certainly did.  This is just one more piece of evidence to put into the pile that says that Tolkien wasn't too far off about the odd creatures that fill up our past.



The current research suggests that Flo, the Hobbit, and the rest of her species were not simply deformed humans but an entirely new make and model of humanity.  Wrist bones of humans (ie. Homo sapiens) are round and small.  Whereas the hobbit's wrist bones are considerably longer, more similar to another famous skeleton - Lucy, or even closer to the chimpanzee wrist than that of our own.  In other words, the hobbit's wrist bones are not that of a diseased human but of a distinct species.


If Hobbits exist, what about orks? fairies? unicorns?  Fingers crossed. 


 Orr, C., Tocheri, M., Burnett, S., Awe, R., Saptomo, E., Sutikna, T., Jatmiko, ., Wasisto, S., Morwood, M., & Jungers, W. (2013). New wrist bones of Homo floresiensis from Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia) Journal of Human Evolution DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2012.10.003



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