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rehistoric events that took place about 20,000 years ago are still quite a mystery. The more archeologists dig, the more they uncover pieces of our ancestors that are used to complete this complex puzzle that we define as the legacy of human evolution. If you think 20,000 years is a long time ago, based on the evolutionary tree of humans it’s actually not that long ago.

Our connection to the hobbit

The focus of this article is hobbits, not the ones from the Lord of the Rings series, but a more distant ancestor of the Homo-Sapiens, our direct ancestors. Interesting enough, the hobbit character presented in the Lord of the Rings series was developed by the discovery of a skeleton that proved to be of a Hobbit from at least 11,000 years ago.

Homo Floresiensis was nicknamed the hobbit based on the much smaller skeleton compared to Homo Sapiens. The theory of new species being formed about 200,000 years ago when Homo-Sapiens started migrating from Africa to different corners of the world has been argued many times before within the literature, but many of the arguments led to be Homo-Sapiens but with different physical characteristics that have changed due to their change of habitat.

The Hobbit had been presented by some historians as an undeveloped Homo-Sapien until it was hypothesized that the Homo Floresiensis was an older ancestor related to the Homo-Sapien. In an academic journal published in 2017 by Debbie Argue, Colin P. Groves, Michael S.Y. Lee, and William L. Jungers (all experts within the field of Anthropology) a study was conducted which showed that based on the data set gathered throughout the years, the Homo Floresiensis is an ancestor to Homo Sapiens by being related to another species.

The biological tree of the human species within the evolutionary chain. Numbers at nodes refer to the posterior probability.D. Argue et al. / Journal of Human Evolution 107 (2017) 107e133124 (Source: Science Direct)

What is very interesting is that from a closer look at the DNA presented within the Homo Floresiensis species, there are quite some similarities with the DNA presented not only in the Homo Sapiens species but also in the Homo Sapiens Sapiens species (present-day humans). Meaning that the hobbit species had sex with the Homo Sapiens species, the same reason why some people still carry the Neatdearthal gene because Homo Sapiens didn’t care whom they were reproducing with.

From the studies done, we know that the hobbit species is much older than Homo Sapiens, but not much is known as to why this species had been shadowed, or maybe the gene had been carried by future species such as the Homo Naledi or Homo Erectus. One of the theories I stand by is that these forgotten species that had been connected to our ancestors have perished within the 100,000 years war between Neatherdhals and Homo-Sapiens.

It is most probable that this species, like many others which we think have perished hundreds of thousands of years, were scavengers within this period who due to their much smaller physique had a difficult time not only fighting against other species but also hunting for food. That is why they are seen as scavengers, and scavengers in a world full of savages didn’t stand a good chance of survival.

The main problem with identifying a more exact origin of this species is that there isn’t a species location where the bones of the species can be found. A set of teeth was found in Siberia whilst a skull was found in the caves of Tibet and some other bones were found in Australia, defying that this species had started to migrate the Homo Erectus.

Prof Kris Helgen, Chief Scientist and Director of the Australian Museum Research Institute said:

“These analyses provide an important window into human evolution in a fascinating region, and demonstrate the need for more archaeological research in the region between mainland Asia and Australia.”

Recent research carried out in 2021 by Profesor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum and Profesor Kris Helgen, Chief Scientist and Director of the Australian Museum Research Institution had shown that the most predominant area on our planet where traces of Homo Floresiensis can be found within the human DNA is Australia.

It seems that at the time when this species was alive, the most peaceful place was Australia and the argument is sustained by different species of animals such as the Komodo Dragon who is one of the only animals to have direct descendent of the dinosaurs and the species itself to have been of Earth since 300,000 years ago!

This information also helps us to better define the date at which the presence of Homo-Sapiens started migrating to different parts of the world. A paper by Joao C. Teixeira et al, 2021 states that based on this new information and the already existing information on Homo-Sapiens, the anatomically modern humans (Homo-Sapiens) had migrated to Asia around 50,000 years ago.

Uncontrollable evolution

The closest ancestor to the hobbit species would be the Australopithecus afarensis which originates from Australia and is known as the last species within the evolutionary chain to be closer to a monkey rather than a human. This is actually quite a famous species known as Lucy’s species born from the story of the first species to have a higher level of intelligence which had lived between 3.85 and 2.95 million years ago.

The skeletal cast of “Lucy.” (Source: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History)

This is the species that gives us a clue as to the possible origin of the hobbit and why most of the fossils found are within Australia. Evolution can take millions of years to occur, but by looking at the evolutionary chain we can see that with each species, the process of evolution is speeding up.

Every cell in our body wants to reproduce and in some way evolve to something better. The evolutionary and reproductive process which each cell goes through is affected by the environment which surrounds the cell. Although this can be seen as a limitation, it can also be an enhancement to the evolutionary process, as seen in the last 10,000 years in which Homo Sapiens evolved into different races by adapting to the surrounding environment.

The same can be said when looking at the hobbit as an “undeveloped species” which wanted to evolve much more, but the environment around it didn’t allow it. We do not know for certain which way the cells wanted to hed at that point, but looking at the anatomy of the two species discussed above, it seems that the focus was more on developing intelligence rather than strength.

According to Argue et al, Homo floresiensis is a long-surviving relict of an early hominin lineage and an unknown migration out of Africa, and not a recent derivative of either Homo erectus or Homo sapiens. This image is an artist’s impression of Homo floresiensis. Image credit: Katrina Kenny
Skull of Homo Floresiensis used to create the 3D Model (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Based on the look of the hobbit species and Homo-Sapiens we can see that a huge leap was taken when it comes to the anatomic evolution of the species. With the skeleton pieces found in 2003, a 3D figure was created in 2017 by Katrina Kenny which gives a more accurate representation of the physiognomy of the hobbit species.

Before any of the recent studies, it was believed that the hobbit was far from being similar to the modern human from a genetic perspective, but recent studies show that the hobbit species is quite close to the Homo-Sapiens species although it is many species behind on the evolutionary tree.

How did this underdog species survive?

The interesting debate that keeps standing is how did this species manage to survive so long and what I think it’s more imperative, what was the main cause for the extinction of this species?

Anthropologist assumes that fossils and evidence of the hobbit species have been identified in the 19th and 20th century but due to the knowledge within the literature at the time as well as the technological limitations, experts just considered that the fossils were of more recent species such as the Homo Habilis or even Homo Georgeicus.

With time we might be able to uncover even more species that have been overshadowed by more powerful species. It is argued that the hobbit, although much weaker was more intelligent than the Homo Erectus, the direct ancestor of the Homo Sapiens. This is justified through their mysterious way to scavenge and survive in a world full of predatory animals and humanoids, the only hypothesis that is standing at the time of writing this article upon how this species managed to survive for such a long period of time.

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