Early humans may have been 'hobbits', scientists say

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In a strange case of science imitating art, one hobbit has again become the center of a heated and ongoing conflict.

Since its 2003 discovery on the Indonesian island of Flores, the Homo floresiensis (nicknamed hobbit because it only grew to be about three feet tall) has caused scientists across the world to debate whether the find is a new species or simply a variation of the modern human. The difference could signal a major paradigm shift in the study of primitive humans.

Although several partial H. floresiensis skeletons have been identified, the majority of the attention has been given to a specimen called LB1 (the first to be discovered) because it is the most complete skeleton and the only one that has an entire cranium.

The earliest known hobbit lived approximately 18,000 years ago, although archaeological records of ancient tools suggest that hobbits may have been alive as early as 12,000 years ago. Until the discovery of LB1, scientists had widely believed that the last non-modern humans were the Neanderthals, which became extinct around 24,000 years ago. If hobbits are indeed a new species, they will replace Neanderthals as the most recent non-modern humans.

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