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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Hobbits and Pygmies

Last year, at the annual meeting of the Australasian Society for Human Biology, I suggested from the floor that the Flores "hobbits", Homo floresiensis, might have been simply very extreme Pygmy humans. This has been presented as fitting in with the idea that the hobbits were really pygmoid.

Apparently the contemporary "pygmies" on Flores live in an area of dense forest in central Flores, according to this report. Modern Pygmies and Negritos are found in rainforest, and their body size seems to be adaptation to this environment. There are "Negritos" all through south east Asia, so it is not really surprising that some have turned up on Flores.

I don't think that the hobbit skeletal material can simply be referred back to this modern Negrito population. Apart from anything else, the hobbit's tiny skullsize and extremely short stature are unlike the modern Negritos who have recently been found on Flores. I suspect that the hobbit was an individual from a group of ancient rainforest-adapted people who were even shorter than modern Pygmies and Negritos, and whose anatomy, including their tiny skulls, was an adaptation to the rainforest environment of a different and more extreme type than is found in any modern group.

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