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Researchers announced today that in 2014 they found remains of a second group of even tinier archaic humans dating back at least 500,000 years before the “Hobbits” of Flores Island near Indonesia.
Scientists say the little people, called Homo floresiensis and discovered in 2003, lived on Flores Island about 100,000 to 50,000 years ago. They are likely descended from an earlier group of hominins who lived nearby on the same island about 700,000 years ago.
A facial approximation of a hobbit. ( Dr. Susan Hayes/University of Wollongong )
They speculate that the little humans evolved from large-bodied Homo erectus to Hobbit-sized creatures within 300,000 years.
Researchers are questioning whether Homo floresiensis lived alongside modern humans in Indonesia and whether Homo sapiens had anything to do with their dying out.
- Researchers claim Flores bones do not represent new species of 'Hobbit' human
- Prehistoric teeth found in China may point to mysterious new human species
“This find has important implications for our understanding of early human dispersal and evolution in the region and quashes once and for all any doubters that believe Homo floresiensis was merely a sick modern human ( Homo sapiens ),” said lead researcher Dr. Gert van den Bergh in a press release from his institution, the University of Wollongong in Australia. “It is conceivable that the tiny Homo floresiensis evolved its miniature body proportions during the initial 300,000 years on Flores, and is thus a dwarfed side lineage that ultimately derives from Homo erectus .”
The latest remains were found in layers of sedimentary rock. Dr. van den Bergh was also on the team that discovered H. floresiensis.
Researchers introduce a new article in the journal Nature by laying out the controversy surrounding who Homo floresiensis’ ancestors were. They wrote that some believe H. floresiensis were descended from Asian Homo erectus and “represents a unique and striking case of evolutionary reversal in hominin body and brain size within an insular environment. The alternative hypothesis is that H. floresiensis derived from an older, smaller-brained member of our genus, such as Homo habilis , or perhaps even late Australopithecus, signalling a hitherto undocumented dispersal of hominins from Africa into eastern Asia by two million years ago.”
One of the teeth that was found. Source: University of Wollongong
The researchers examined six teeth and mandible bones of three “small-jawed and small-toothed” humanoids found at Mata Menge on Flores in 2014, the same island where the H. floresiensis bones were found in 2003. The mandible and teeth found at Mata Menge date back 700,000 years and are even smaller than those of H. floresiensis, whose remains were found about 70 km (43 miles) away at Liang Bua.
H. floresiensis stood about 1 meter (3 feet) tall. The researchers are unclear if the size difference in jaws and teeth of the two groups is simply variations between individuals or between entire populations.
Aerial view of Mata Menge. ( Kinez Riza )
They assume the oldest artifacts on Flores, dating to at least 1 million years ago, were made by “large-bodied ancestors of the Mata Menge hominins” and go on to write:
“This apparently very fast transformation in hominin body size is surprising. Although no other documented examples of rapid island dwarfing exist for primates, we note that red deer from the island of Jersey had reduced to one-sixth of the body size in the ancestral population within about six millennia. Flores may have been an exceptional case; however, the fossil evidence from Mata Menge highlights how quickly major evolutionary changes could have occurred in hominin populations cut off on isolated and impoverished islands of Wallacea.”
The researchers tentatively concluded that H. floresiensis originated from Javanese Homo erectus humans of 1.2 million to 800,000 years ago. The H. erectus femurs were 55 to 61 percent longer and had brain size about twice that of H. floresiensis, the Nature paper states.
“All the fossils are indisputably hominin and they appear to be remarkably similar to those of Homo floresiensis ,” Dr. Yousuke Kaifu, another researcher on the team, told University of Wollongong news service. Kaifu said:
“The morphology of the fossil teeth also suggests that this human lineage represents a dwarfed descendant of early Homo erectus that somehow got marooned on the island of Flores. What is truly unexpected is that the size of the finds indicates that Homo floresiensis had already obtained its small size by at least 700,000 years ago.”
The location of some of the fossils found at Mata Menge on a skull. ( University of Wollongong )
They researchers believe that the fact that the earliest evidence of hominins on Flores, going back about 1 million years, does not predate H. erectus on Java is evidence of the relationship between the two species.
News of the discovery of fossils of a tiny archaic human species Homo floresiensis that lived on the island of Flores piqued the imagination and delight of people around the world when it was announced years ago. People compared the species to the Hobbits imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings.
- Study Says that Hobbits of Flores Island Are Not Homo Sapiens
- The Faces of Ancient Hominids Brought to Life in Remarkable Detail
The University of Wollongong press release states: “The findings, also published in Nature, pushed back the time of disappearance of Homo floresiensis from as recently as 12,000 years ago to about 50,000 years ago, suggesting that they may have lived alongside modern humans in Indonesia, which begs the question – did we have anything to do with their disappearance?”
That speculation is tantalizing, but the press release does not elaborate. Scholars say when modern humans came into contact with archaic human species, the archaic peoples usually died out. Homo sapiens are the only species of homo that still exists today.
A second Nature article from today by some of the same researchers describes the finding of the fossils from 700,000 years ago and say that the remains were “deposited in a small valley stream” although the palaeoenvironmental information suggests that the area had a relatively dry climate at the time. This data suggests to the researchers that the “hominins inhabited a savannah-like open grassland habitat with a wetland component.”
Furthermore, the University of Wollongong is offering those interested in the mysterious “Hobbits” to learn more on the subject via a free month-long, online course beginning on July 18, 2016.
Researchers May Have Found True Identity of Ancient 'Hobbit' Species
Anthropologists know of at least two ancient species of tiny humans that lived on the islands of southeast Asia over 50,000 years ago. The origin of these extinct humans is unknown, but new research suggests they’re more closely related to Denisovans and Neanderthals—and, by consequence, modern humans—than previously thought.
New research published in Nature Ecology & Evolution has found no evidence of interbreeding between modern humans (Homo sapiens) and two extinct species of short-statured humans, Homo floresiensis (commonly known as the Flores Island “hobbits”) and Homo luzonensis (found in the Philippines). Fossil evidence of these two species, described in 2004 and 2019 respectively, suggests these island-dwelling humans stood no taller than around 3 feet and 7 inches (109 centimeters), a possible consequence of insular dwarfism—an evolutionary process in which the body size of a species shrinks over time as a consequence of limited access to resources.
At the same time, the new paper, led by João Teixeira from the University of Adelaide, provides further confirmation of interbreeding between the Denisovans and modern humans, specifically modern humans living in Island Southeast Asia, an area that encompasses tropical islands between east Asia, Australia, and New Guinea. Denisovans—a sister group of Neanderthals—reached the area some 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, but archaeologists have yet to uncover a shred of fossil evidence related to these so-called “southern Denisovans.” That’s obviously weird, given the overwhelming genetic evidence that they lived in this part of the world, but it means there are important archaeological discoveries still waiting to be found. At least in theory.
So, the new paper, co-authored by anthropologist Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London, suggests modern humans interbred with Denisovans but not H. floresiensis or H. luzonensis. That’s an important result, because it could help to explain the presence of the diminutive humans, who died out around 50,000 years ago, in this part of the world. Excitingly, it could mean that these “super-archaics,” in the parlance of the researchers, “are not super-archaic after all, and are more closely related to [modern] humans than previously thought,” explained Teixeira, a population geneticist, in an email.
In other words, H. floresiensis or H. luzonensis might actually be the elusive southern Denisovans.
Oldest-Known “Hobbit”-like Fossils Found
Jun 8, 2016
Reconstruction of Homo floresiensis by Atelier Elisabeth Daynes KINEZ RIZA Scientists have discovered hominin remains from the Indonesian island of Flores that may belong to the &ldquohobbit&rdquo-like hominin species Homo floresiensis, according to a study published today (June 8) in Nature. In a second study, the researchers estimate that the specimens are around 700,000 years old. The findings provide the strongest evidence to date that H. floresiensis was indeed a distinct species, and significantly push back the age when these small hominins first appeared.
&ldquoIt really is the final nail in the coffin for people who believe hobbits were pathological modern humans,&rdquo anthropologist William Harcourt-Smith of Lehman College in New York City, who was not involved with the work, told The Scientist. &ldquoThe whole package speaks to something very Homo floresiensis-like.&rdquo
Scientists first discovered skeletal remains of the species now known as H. floresiensis in.
“Up until now, it was not possible to test either hypothesis against the fossil record,” study coauthor Gerrit van den Bergh of the University of Wollongong, Australia, told reporters during a June 7 press briefing.
In 2014, van den Bergh, Yousuke Kaifu of Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science, and their colleagues excavated six isolated teeth and a jaw fragment from a sandstone formation in Mata Menge, an early Middle Pleistocene site in the So’a Basin of central Flores. The size and shape of the fossils—derived from at least three individuals—resemble the hobbit fossils found in Liang Bua, but are about 20 percent to 30 percent smaller, according to the researchers. Using CT scanning, the team was able to show that the fossils were from adults.
“Our working hypothesis is, this is a Homo floresiensis-like fossil,” study coauthor Adam Brumm of Griffith University, Australia, told reporters during the briefing. Brumm stopped short of saying the fossils belong to the species.
Hominin fossil KINEZ RIZA Brumm and colleagues used a quartet of different dating techniques to pin down the age of the fossils to about 700,000 years old, making them the oldest hominin remains from Flores.
The researchers used Argon dating and fission track dating on the volcanic ash in the sandstone deposits where the fossils were found, in addition to uranium-series and electron spin resonance dating of the fossilized teeth themselves. The evidence suggests these hobbit-like hominins lived in a relatively dry, grassy habitat with scattered water sources, such as streams.
The hominin remains were found alongside primitive stone tools similar to those found at Liang Boa, as well as fossils of other animals, including an extinct species of dwarf elephant, rats, Komodo dragons, and birds, the researchers reported in their papers.
When the researchers compared the fossils to those of Australopithecus and H. habilis, they found the former were much more modern, supporting the hypothesis that H. floresiensis descended from early Asian H. erectus, the researchers noted.
The finding “demonstrates that there were small hominins on Flores for a very long time,” Leslie Aiello, president of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research in New York City, who was not involved in the studies, wrote in an email to The Scientist. “It is a shame that the fossil material is so fragmentary, but it certainly does seem to support the idea that H. floresiensis descended from an early Asian H. erectus rather than from an earlier hominin,” Aiello added.
Not everyone agrees with this interpretation. “More work needs to be done and more [fossil evidence] needs to be found to make the case that this is definitely [descended] from Homo erectus,” Harcourt-Smith said.
“It’s extremely impressive work by a very good group of researchers,” paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University said of the studies. “Both the teeth and the jaw make it very clear to me that the hominins they found belong to Homo floresiensis. That’s the most parsimonious explanation.”
The findings open up new questions about how these hobbit-like hominins first reached Flores. Van den Bergh said he thinks the most likely explanation is that a tsunami stranded H. floresiensis’s ancestors on the island, where evolutionary pressures eventually shrunk their brains and bodies.
However, “we’ve so far only discovered a small number of fossils from Mata Menge,” van den Bergh noted. “More questions must await the discovery of additional fossil remains.”
G. van den Bergh et al., “Homo floresiensis-like fossils from the early Middle Pleistocene of Flores,” Nature, doi:10.1038/nature17999, 2016.
A. Brumm et al., “Age and context of the oldest known hominin fossils from Flores,” Nature, doi:10.1038/nature17663, 2016.
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By the way, Flores is also home to a giant rat. While big mammals tend to become small on islands, over generations small mammals become bigger.
Morphological drift takes time, and Homo floresiensis may have had a long time to develop its diminution. Scientists continue to spar over the antecedents of this mysterious species, which stood all of 1.1 meter (3.5 foot) tall in adulthood. But at least it is now clear that the population of small people on Flores today is unrelated.
Which doesn’t mean the two species of humans didn’t meet. They may have. “The current archaeological record points to the presence of H. floresiensis on Flores from 100,000 to 60,000 years ago,” lead author Dr. Serena Tucci of Princeton tells Haaretz. “We still don’t know when modern humans arrived there, so it is hard to say.”
The hobbit emerges
In 2003, a strange fossil skeleton of a strikingly small hominin with an extremely small brain (400 cubic centimeters, compared with our 1,350 cubic centimeters) and enormous feet was found in a cave on Flores. And the fight was on.
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Nicknamed the “hobbit” (officially Homo floresiensis), that and subsequent discoveries triggered tooth-and-claw quarrels among scientists over whether “Flores person” was a diseased Homo sapiens who suffered from dwarfism, microcephalism and other physical deformities whether it descended from Homo erectus or whether it descended from some other hominin altogether – maybe a far-ranging Homo habilis. They were short, too.
The difficulties in definitively classifying H. floresiensis are legion. One: Extracting usable DNA from ancient bones is extraordinarily tricky. DNA cannot be extracted from fossils, which are bones that underwent mineralization. It can only be extracted, with extraordinary luck and skill, from preserved bones. DNA has not yet been recovered from the H. floresiensis remains.
Another snag in studying the evolution of the wonder that is ourselves is that human fossils are so rare there are also precious few fossils of floresiensis, and all were found in that one cave. The earliest date back some 100,000 years, the latest to about 50,000 years, Tucci says. (They could have gone extinct much later but we haven’t found the remains. We just don’t know.)
Further confusing the issue is that stone tools have been found on Flores dating back about a million years. The tools were found in the proximity of dwarf stegodon (Stegodon florensis). Ergo, the island was colonized by hominins at least half a million years before Homo sapiens began to evolve, and they seem to have liked to hunt and eat little elephants.
Reconstruction of human, hobbit and Neanderthal women, from left Ismoon
We cannot know whether the ancestors of H. floresiensis made those tools. If they did, then the “hobbits” arose from a hominin that predated humankind by hundreds of thousands of years, and lived in isolation on the island for at least a million years.
The hobbit on its lonesome
Moving on eons, pygmies now live near the Liang Bua limestone cave where the floresiensis fossils were found. They’re a foot taller on average then the hobbits were, but one might assume they descended from the hobbits.
They did not, the team concludes, after sequencing the genomes of 32 pygmies.
Homo sapiens evidently mixed and matched with Neanderthals and Denisovans, though where and when is enormously complicated. Certain populations today have traces of “ghost ancestors” – which means they have genes of uncertain origin. If an isolated group of people has a gene for a protein that no other living or extinct humans have, the assumption is that the gene came from some unknown ancestor. A famous instance is a unique protein found in saliva among some sub-Saharan Africans.
Lacking hobbit DNA for comparison, the researchers combed the pygmy genome for genes from ancient human lineages. They found Neanderthal genes, Denisovan ancestry – and that’s all, folks. They found no mysterious genes that might have come from H. floresiensis.
Based on existing technological capabilities, they found no compelling evidence that the Flores pygmies harbor traces of admixture with other archaic hominin species, Tucci tells Haaretz.
“There is no indication of gene flow from the hobbit into people living today,” says Richard Green of UC Santa Cruz, one of the scientists who originally found archaic genes in our modern genomes.
We do not know when the ancestors of the pygmies reached Flores, which was no mean feat, nor do we know how long they were isolated. “It is hard to say,” Tucci explains. “We know it was really hard to cross the deep waters that separated Flores from Asia [also called the Wallace line]. Very few mammals were able to cross this line.”
We can say that the pygmies share ancestry with people in East Asia and Island Southeast Asia, Tucci says. They have a more distant relationship with populations in Oceania, including Papuans and Australian Aborigines. “Genetically, they’re not so different from other populations in that part of the world,” Green says.
So the pygmies didn’t get their short genes from the hobbits.
Height has to do with diet, but mainly it is a very heritable trait, the scientists explain. Genes associated with taller or shorter stature have been identified, in Europeans, but that counts too.
So Green and colleagues analyzed the Flores pygmy genomes for genes related to height in Europeans, and found a high frequency of genetic variants associated with decreased height, they report.
Conclusion: The pygmies evolved to be short on that small island by natural selection acting on preexisting genetic variation.
Therefore, “it means that these gene variants were present in a common ancestor of Europeans and the Flores pygmies. They became short by selection acting on this standing variation already present in the population, so there’s little need for genes from an archaic hominin to explain their small stature,” Green sums up.
So, they are saying that human-type beings moved to Flores and underwent insular dwarfism not once but twice. “Weird things happen on islands,” Green says. “With the gene pool cut off from the larger population, an island population is free to evolve in unrestrained directions based on the demands of a small ecosystem.”
Researchers may have found true identity of ancient 'hobbit' species
Anthropologists know of at least two ancient species of tiny humans that lived on the islands of southeast Asia over 50,000 years ago. The origin of these extinct humans is unknown, but new research suggests they&rsquore more closely related to Denisovans and Neanderthals&mdashand, by consequence, modern humans&mdashthan previously thought.
New research published in Nature Ecology & Evolution has found no evidence of interbreeding between modern humans (Homo sapiens) and two extinct species of short-statured humans, Homo floresiensis (commonly known as the Flores Island &ldquohobbits&rdquo) and Homo luzonensis (found in the Philippines). Fossil evidence of these two species, described in 2004 and 2019 respectively, suggests these island-dwelling humans stood no taller than around 3 feet and 7 inches (109 centimeters), a possible consequence of insular dwarfism&mdashan evolutionary process in which the body size of a species shrinks over time as a consequence of limited access to resources.
At the same time, the new paper, led by João Teixeira from the University of Adelaide, provides further confirmation of interbreeding between the Denisovans and modern humans, specifically modern humans living in Island Southeast Asia, an area that encompasses tropical islands between east Asia, Australia, and New Guinea. Denisovans&mdasha sister group of Neanderthals&mdashreached the area some 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, but archaeologists have yet to uncover a shred of fossil evidence related to these so-called &ldquosouthern Denisovans.&rdquo That&rsquos obviously weird, given the overwhelming genetic evidence that they lived in this part of the world, but it means there are important archaeological discoveries still waiting to be found. At least in theory.
So, the new paper, co-authored by anthropologist Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London, suggests modern humans interbred with Denisovans but not H. floresiensis or H. luzonensis. That&rsquos an important result, because it could help to explain the presence of the diminutive humans, who died out around 50,000 years ago, in this part of the world. Excitingly, it could mean that these &ldquosuper-archaics,&rdquo in the parlance of the researchers, &ldquoare not super-archaic after all, and are more closely related to [modern] humans than previously thought,&rdquo explained Teixeira, a population geneticist, in an email.
In other words, H. floresiensis or H. luzonensis might actually be the elusive southern Denisovans.
Given that present-day human populations in Island Southeast Asia have retained a significant amount of Denisovan DNA, the authors wondered if H. floresiensis and H. luzonensis also interbred with modern humans. It was also possible, though unlikely, that another ancient human called H. erectus, which lived in Java until around 117,000 to 108,000 years ago, might&rsquove also contributed to modern human ancestry. Indeed, one possible scenario is that the super-archaics were descended from H. erectus.
To that end, the scientists studied the DNA of 400 modern humans, of which more than half were of Island Southeast Asia ancestry. The team searched for key genetic signatures indicative of interbreeding events related to &ldquodeeply divergent hominin species,&rdquo said Teixeira. Island Southeast Asia is the &ldquomost likely geographic region where such events could have occurred due to the aforementioned presence of H. floresiensis and H. luzonensis, and perhaps H. erectus as well,&rdquo he added.
It&rsquos important to note that scientists do not have genomes for the two short-statured species, nor H. erectus for that matter.
&ldquoThere are no &lsquofirst-hand&rsquo genomes of the kind we have from Neanderthals and Denisovans, but there are &lsquosecond-hand&rsquo bits of DNA in the Denisovan genomes that seem to come from them having interbred with a super-archaic population,&rdquo explained Stringer in an email. &ldquoThese can be recognised by their greater-than-average divergence within the genome and also, if there has been recent interbreeding, the strands of DNA will have been shuffled up less, and hence found in larger and more &lsquopristine&rsquo chunks.&rdquo
To be clear, the scientists are not looking for specific species-related genomes, but evidence of interbreeding, which leaves a pronounced genetic signature across the entire genome.
Results showed that modern humans did not interbreed with the two small human species, but the team did confirm Denisovan ancestry among individuals from Island Southeast Asia. As Stringer put it, &ldquothe DNA of local populations shows signs of ancestry from the Denisovans, who are currently only known from fossils in Asia, but no genetic evidence deriving from the ancient humans whose bones have actually been found in the area.&rdquo
Indeed, fossil evidence of Denisovans is non-existent in Island Southeast Asia, and the evidence that does exist elsewhere is sparse. Aside from genetics, the presence of this human species is known from a finger bone, several teeth, and skull fragments found in Siberia, as well as a 160,000-year-old jawbone found in a cave on the Tibetan Plateau.
The new research confirms that the two super-archaic species &ldquodid not contribute ancestry to modern human populations,&rdquo or if they did, they&rsquore &ldquonot so divergent as currently assumed based on morphological comparisons,&rdquo said Teixeira. These short-statured humans may seem very different from modern humans, and thus very divergent, but that could be an illusion, as their DNA may actually be very similar to ours and especially to that of Denisovans, according to this line of thinking.
For Teixeira, the absence of this interbreeding combined with the widespread Denisovan ancestry means the two super-archaic species might represent the missing Denisovans in Island Southeast Asia, or some kind of offshoot.
&ldquoThe ISEA fossil hominins are thought to represent a much older split (approximately 2 million years ago). But those estimates rely on morphological comparisons to, and the assumption they descend from, H. erectus,&rdquo he explained. &ldquoOur results show that such super-archaic species did not interbreed with modern humans in ISEA&mdashbut what if we&rsquore wrong? What if hominin occupation in ISEA was not continuous? What if Denisovan ancestry in ISEA comes from these groups?&rdquo
To which he added: &ldquoNo one knows for sure what a Denisovan is supposed to look like nor how much morphological variation existed within different Denisovan populations,&rdquo he explained. &ldquoIf that is the case,&rdquo the revelation that the super-archaics are actually the southern Denisovans &ldquocould have serious implications for paleoanthropology.&rdquo
Stringer, on the other hand, isn&rsquot so sure, as his interpretation of the evidence suggests a different lineage for the tiny human species.
&ldquoThe known fossils of H. erectus, H. floresiensis, and H. luzonensis might seem to be in the right place and time to represent the mysterious &lsquosouthern Denisovans,&rsquo but their ancestors were likely to have been in place in Island Southeast Asia long before the Denisovan lineage had evolved,&rdquo and possibly as long as 700,000 years ago, Stringer explained.
&ldquoGeorge, co-authors do not always agree on everything,&rdquo Teixeira told me when I queried him about this apparent inconsistency.
Regardless, the co-authors believe that interbreeding between southern Denisovans and modern humans happened in Island Southeast Asia.
&ldquoThe presence of the largest amounts of Denisovan-like DNA in regions like Papua New Guinea and Australia suggests that the interbreeding occurred in ISEA or, much less likely in my opinion, a place like Papua New Guinea,&rdquo explained Stringer in his email. &ldquoMy guess is that Sumatra, Borneo, and Sulawesi were the homelands of the missing &lsquosouthern Denisovans&rsquo and will most likely yield up their fossils.&rdquo
Stringer said these results depend on the samples analyzed and that more samples are likely to provide a fuller picture.
The new paper, while illuminating, raises some very important questions. First and foremost, where are the Denisovan fossils in Island Southeast Asia? And, as Teixeira asks, &ldquohave we already found them but assumed these fossils represented much more distant relatives?&rdquo In other words, maybe the &ldquohobbits&rdquo were the southern Denisovans all along.
'So at first I was wondering if it could be from a child. However we confirmed the mandible was from an adult after we took a high resolution CT scan and confirmed its internal structure.
'I then realised the significance of the new finding. There were tiny Hobbit-like hominins as early as 700,000 years ago on Flores.
WHY DID THE HOBBIT'S ANCESTOR SHRINK ON THE ISLAND OF FLORES
Dr Gerrit van den Bergh, an anthropologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia, and his colleagues believed the hominins may have faced limited food and resources after being stranded on Flores.
This would have led them to begin evolving smaller brains and bodies - a phenomenon known as dwarfism.
Dr van den Bergh said: 'The brain size of Homo floresinesis is very small - about the size of a chimpanzee but they walked upright. So maybe they just did not need such a big brain.
'A brain is a very expensive organ and maybe a smaller brain might work as well in an island setting.
'What is clear is that they made stone tools so they were not stupid.'
'The morphology strongly suggests the Mata Menge hominin were the direct ancestor of Homo floresiensis.
'They are consistent with the hypothesis that Homo floresiensis originated from early Asian Homo erectus.'
The fossilised remains of the new human species were buried within a sandstone layer under an area of rolling grassland on central Flores known as Mata Menge.
It is thought that around 700,000 years ago when the tiny humans lived there, it was an open Savannah grassland that was dotted with patches of wetlands and forest.
The sandstone appears to be formed of sediment left by an ancient stream that once flowed over the site and perhaps where there prehistoric humans foraged for stone cobbles to make tools.
Previous excavations on Flores have found extensive evidence of simple stone blades that date back up to one million years ago.
But the search for who made these tools has been frustrated by the thick vegetation and jungle that covers much of the island.
In 2003, palaeontologists discovered the remains of Homo floresiensis, nicknamed Hobbits after the diminutive characters in JRR Tolkien's novels, within a cave known as Liang Bua.
The researchers used three separate techniques to date the fossils (tooth pictured) to 700,000 years ago
The fossils were found in a deposit of sandstone (pictured) which is thought to have been laid down by an ancient stream. Dating techniques revealed the fossils were 700,000 years old. PhD student Mika Puspaningrum is pictured pointing to the spot where the mandible fragment was found in October 2014
The Mata Menge site is a open grassland (pictured), much as it would have been 700,000 years ago
Homo floresiensis (reconstruction pictured) is thought to have lived on Flores between 90,000 and 50,000 years ago. They are thought to have been around 3.5 feet tall when fully grown and had small brains
They were initially thought to be around 12,000-years-old, but subsequent research has shown they are between 90,000 and 50,000-years-old.
Their discovery led to a series of furious public rows between scientists as they disagreed over where in the evolutionary tree these tiny humans fitted.
But the new fossils may finally put this to rest and the scientists behind the latest excavations said they hoped to search the site for further fossils that might help.
CT scans of the fossilised mandible found at Mata Mange showed that its wisdom teeth had been erupting when it died, indicating it belonged to an adult.
Scientists, whose findings are published in two papers the journal Nature, also used three separate techniques to date the fossils, confirming they were 700,000-years-old.
Initial estimates suggests they could have been as short as three feet tall when fully grown, although it will not be possible to know definitely until other bones are unearthed.
However, it is unclear exactly how this ancient species of human came to be stranded on Flores.
The original Homo floresiensis fossils were found in the Luang Bua cave (pictured) on Flores. The new fossils were found just 43 miles away
The Mata Menge site sits in the So’a Basin in Flores, a large area of grassland (shown in this aerial picture)
Researchers say they hope further excavations (pictured) may uncover more fossils from these tiny hominins
Dr Gerrit van den Bergh, an anthropologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia who led the study, said it was possible their ancestors had been swept to the island by a tsunami.
He said: 'A freak event may have caused them to strand on the island of Flores.
'After the boxing day Tsunami in 2004 there were people who were found 60km (37 miles) from the coast clinging to debris, including a pregnant woman.
'Given such events occur every 100 years or so, over the course of a million years it is entirely likely that a small group of hominins could have been stranded on Flores.'
Once stranded there, he said, they would have been isolated and could have evolved their smaller body shape and eventually given rise to the hominins found at Mata Menge.
The Flores hobbit were far smaller than modern humans (skulls of a hobbit pictured left and Homo sapien pictured right), leading may anthropologists to claim they may have been simply suffering from a form of dwarfism, but recent studies have shown they were a separate species
The scientists say they have recovered thousands of animal fossils from the Mata Menge site (pictured) but the jawbone and teeth they unearthed in October 2014 were the first human remains at the site
Dr van den Bergh said while the best way to prove that Homo floresinesis was related to the hominins found at Mata Menge was to test for DNA, this was unlikely.
He said: 'The hot wet climate of the tropics is not ideal to preserve DNA. We have not been able to get any DNA from the Homo floresinesis fossils.
'If you don't get DNA from a fossil 60,000 years ago, it is almost impossible we will get some in those that are 700,000 years ago, unfortunately.'
Dr Iwan Kurniawan, a palaeontologist from the Geology Museum of Indonesia who took part in the excavation, added: 'It is possible they are from Homo erectus but it will not be possible to tell until more fossils are excavated from the site.'
Homo floresiensis (artist's impression pictured) is known from ten individuals, including one complete skull, which were found in 2003
However, the new fossils are not likely to answer all the questions surrounding the hobbits of Flores.
There are some who doubt whether it will have been possible for the hominins stranded there around a million years ago to have evolved their small size in just 300,000 years.
Professor Chris Stringer, a palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, said: ‘The new fossils from Mata Menge are certainly important in showing the probable longevity of the floresiensis lineage on the island.
'But in my view the dwarfing process could even have started on other islands before reaching Flores, and the ancestral population could have more closely resembled the ancient and smaller-bodied Homo erectus fossils known from Dmanisi in Georgia.'
THE MYSTERY OF INDONESIA'S FIRST INHABITANTS
It was thought to be a key island that helped modern humans spread from Asia into the prehistoric landmass that now forms Australia and Papua New Guinea 50,000 years ago.
But stone tools discovered on the large Indonesian island of Sulawesi suggest they were not the first human species to have braved the ocean to reach the lush tropical paradise.
Instead, the findings suggest a mysterious species of seafaring early human relatives were living on the island up to 194,000 years ago – predating the arrival of our own species by tens of millennia.
The stone flakes - shaped into sharp edged blades – were unearthed at four sites in Talepu in the Indonesian jungle alongside the Walanae River, north east of Maros in southern Sulawesi.
The site, which is just over a mile southeast of Cabenge, is close to another site where ancient rock art was discovered in limestone caves.
However, dating of the rock art had suggested they were around 40,000 years old and were likely made by members of our own species, Homo sapiens.
The new discovery, however, suggests that another earlier species of human, which has since died out, had been living there long before Homo sapiens arrived on the island.
Dr Gerrit van den Bergh, an anthropologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia who led the research, said the lack of human remains on the island made it difficult to know exactly which species had made the tools.
He and his colleagues said the early inhabitants could have been members of the so-called Hobbits, Homo floresiensis.
Alternatively it could have been Homo erectus, remains of which have been found on present day Java.
It could even have been the Denisovans, the Asian cousins of the Neanderthals.
While You Are Ringing In The Summer, Don't Forget To Remember The Importance Of What We Have Off For.
Home of the free because of the brave.
"The American flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies from the last breath of each solider who died protecting it."
On this present day in America, we currently have over 1.4 million brave men and women actively listed in the armed forces to protect and serve our country.
Currently there is an increased rate of 2.4 million retiree's from the US military
Approximately, there has been over 3.4 million deaths of soldiers fighting in wars.
Every single year, everyone look's forward to Memorial Day Weekend, a weekend where beaches become overcrowded, people fire up them grills for a fun sunny BBQ, simply an increase of summer activities, as a "pre-game" before summer begins.
Many American's have forgot the true definition of why we have the privilege to celebrate Memorial Day.
In simple terms, Memorial Day is a day to pause, remember, reflect and honor the fallen who died protecting and serving for everything we are free to do today.
Thank you for stepping forward, when most would have stepped backwards.
Thank you for the times you missed with your families, in order to protect mine.
Thank you for involving yourself, knowing that you had to rely on faith and the prayers of others for your own protection.
Thank you for being so selfless, and putting your life on the line to protect others, even though you didn't know them at all.
Thank you for toughing it out, and being a volunteer to represent us.
Thank you for your dedication and diligence.
Without you, we wouldn't have the freedom we are granted now.
I pray you never get handed that folded flag. The flag is folded to represent the original thirteen colonies of the United States. Each fold carries its own meaning. According to the description, some folds symbolize freedom, life, or pay tribute to mothers, fathers, and children of those who serve in the Armed Forces.
As long as you live, continuously pray for those families who get handed that flag as someone just lost a mother, husband, daughter, son, father, wife, or a friend. Every person means something to someone.
Most Americans have never fought in a war. They've never laced up their boots and went into combat. They didn't have to worry about surviving until the next day as gunfire went off around them. Most Americans don't know what that experience is like.
However, some Americans do as they fight for our country every day. We need to thank and remember these Americans because they fight for our country while the rest of us stay safe back home and away from the war zone.
Never take for granted that you are here because someone fought for you to be here and never forget the people who died because they gave that right to you.
So, as you are out celebrating this weekend, drink to those who aren't with us today and don't forget the true definition of why we celebrate Memorial Day every year.
"…And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice."
3 Lucy&rsquos Mating Habits
Some of Lucy&rsquos kind, Australopithecus afarensis, traveled in a group around 3.6 million years ago. They crossed modern-day Laetoli, Tanzania. When 14 of their footprints were found in 2015, it became the second set discovered at Laetoli.
Four decades earlier, 70 tracks galvanized the archaeological community because their extreme age proved that human evolution saw upright walking very early on. While the 1978 set was welcomed, a study about the new trail caused a rift.
Made by two individuals, one had a longer stride. Calculations placed him at over 168 centimeters (5&rsquo6&Prime) tall, big for his kind. They crossed the same ash layer in the same direction as the other spoor.
The study suggested that both trails belonged to the same breeding group of one male (the tall guy) with females and young. Other researchers feel that five walkers of unknown age isn&rsquot enough to determine gender. 
Even today, it&rsquos hard to distinguish between footprints made by young women and teenage boys. Moreover, critics feel that it&rsquos madness to identify a mating strategy for Australopithecus afarensis based on a few prints.
How a hobbit is rewriting the history of the human race
I t remains one of the greatest human fossil discoveries of all time. The bones of a race of tiny primitive people, who used stone tools to hunt pony-sized elephants and battle huge Komodo dragons, were discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004.
The team of Australian researchers had been working in a vast limestone cavern, called Liang Bua, in one of the island's remotest areas, when one scientist ran his trowel against a piece of bone. Carefully the group began scraping away the brown clay in which pieces of a tiny skull, and a little lower jaw, were embedded.
This was not any old skull, they quickly realised. Although small, it had special characteristics. In particular, it had adult teeth. "This was no child, but a tiny adult in fact, one of the smallest adult hominids ever found in the fossil record," says Mike Morwood, of Australia's University of Wollongong and a leader of the original Flores expedition team.
The pieces of bone were carefully wrapped in newspaper, packed in cardboard boxes and then cradled on the laps of scientists on their journey, by ferry and plane, back to Jakarta. Then the pieces of skull, as well as bones from other skeletons found in Liang Bua, were put together.
The end result caused consternation. These remains came from a species that turned out to be only three feet tall and had the brain the size of an orange. Yet it used quite sophisticated stone tools. And that was a real puzzle. How on earth could such individuals have made complex implements and survived for aeons on this remote part of the Malay archipelago?
Some simply dismissed the bones as the remains of deformed modern humans with diseases that had caused them to shrink: to them, they were just pathological oddities, it was alleged. Most researchers disagreed, however. The hobbits were the descendants of a race of far larger, ancient humans who had thrived around a million years ago. These people, known as Homo erectus, had become stranded on the island and then had shrunk in an evolutionary response to the island's limited resources.
That is odd enough. However, new evidence suggests the little folk of Flores may be even stranger in origin. According to a growing number of scientists, Homo floresiensis is probably a direct descendant of some of the first apemen to evolve on the African savannah three million years ago. These primitive hominids somehow travelled half a world from their probable birthplace in the Rift Valley to make their homes among the orangutans, giant turtles and rare birds of Indonesia before eventually reaching Flores.
It sounds improbable but the basic physical similarity between the two species is striking. Consider Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old member of Australopithecus afarensis. She had a very small brain, primitive wrists, feet and teeth and was only one metre tall, but was still declared "the grandmother of humanity" after her discovery in Ethiopia in 1974. Crucially, analysis of Lucy's skeleton shows it has great similarities with the bones of H. floresiensis, although her species died out millions of years ago while the hobbits hung on in Flores until about 17,000 years ago. This latter figure is staggeringly close in terms of recent human evolution and indicates that long after the Neanderthals, our closest evolutionary relatives, had disappeared from the face of the Earth around 35,000 years ago, these tiny, distant relatives of Homo sapiens were still living on remote Flores.
The crucial point about this interpretation is that it explains why the Flores people had such minuscule proportions. They didn't shrink but were small from the start – because they came from a very ancient lineage of little apemen. They acquired no diseased deformities, nor did they evolve a smaller stature over time. They were, in essence, an anthropological relic and Flores was an evolutionary time capsule. In research that provides further support for this idea, scientists have recently dated some stone tools on Flores as being around 1.1 million years old, far older than had been previously supposed.
The possibility that a very primitive member of the genus Homo left Africa, roughly two million years ago, and that a descendant population persisted until only several thousand years ago, is one of the more provocative hypotheses to have emerged in anthropology during the past few years," David Strait of the University of Albany told Scientific American recently. This view is backed by Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London. "We are still grappling with what this discovery has done for our thinking and our conventional scenarios."
In addition, Mike Morwood says he has now uncovered stone tools on nearby Sulawesi. These could be almost two million years old, he believes, which suggests the whole region was populated by very ancient humans for a startlingly long part of human prehistory. "This is going to put the cat among the pigeons," Morwood says.
However, it is the hobbits' similarity to ancient African apemen that provides the most compelling evidence for their ancient origins. In the Journal of Human Evolution, a team led by Debbie Argue of the Australian National University, recently reported that analysis of H. floresiensis shows they most closely resemble apelike human ancestors that first appeared around 2.3 million years ago in Africa. In other words, their stock may be not quite as old as Lucy's but probably comes from a hominid, known as Homo habilis, that appeared on the evolutionary scene not long after Lucy's species disappeared. Homo habilis's features now seem to match, most closely, those of H. floresiensis.
Consider those hobbit feet, for example. The skeleton unearthed on Flores had a foot that was 20cm in length. This produces a ratio of 70 per cent when compared with the length of the hobbit's thigh bone. By contrast, men and women today have foot-to-thigh bone ratios of 55 per cent. The little folk of Flores had singularly short legs and long, flapper feet, very similar to those of African apemen, even though limbs like these would have made their long march from Africa to Flores a painful business.
Similarly, the hands of H. floresiensis were more like apes than those of evolved humans, their wrists possessing trapezoid bones that would have made the delicate art of stone tool-making very difficult. Their teeth show primitive traits while their brains were little bigger than those of chimpanzees, though CT scans of skull interiors suggest they may have had cognitive skills not possessed by apes.
Nevertheless, this little apeman, with poor physique, a chimp-sized brain and only a limited ability to make tools, now appears to have left Africa, travelled thousands of miles and somehow colonised part, if not all, of south-east Asia two million years ago.
Scientists had previously assumed only a far more advanced human ancestor, such as Homo erectus, was capable of undertaking that task and only managed to do so about a million years ago when our predecessors had evolved powerful physiques, a good gait and the beginnings of intellect. Without these, we would have got nowhere, it was implied.
Then along came little H. floresiensis which, quite simply, has "no business being there," says Morwood. And you can see what he means. Apart from the sheer improbability of a jumped-up ape travelling from Africa to Indonesia, there is the particular puzzle of how it got to Flores.
Primitive hominids were almost certainly incapable of sailing. So how did it arrive on the island in the first place? It is a puzzle, although Stringer believes the region's intense tectonic activity is significant. "After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, people were found far out at sea clinging to rafts of vegetation. Things like that could have happened regularly in the past and people could have been swept out to sea and washed ashore on Flores. Alternatively, there could have been short-lived connections between now separate islands."
Thus, ancient African apemen travelled half the world, made homes across Indonesia and, in one case, were washed out to sea to end up colonising a remote island that was already populated with pygmy elephants, called stegadons, and giant Komodo dragons, which are still found on the island. It is a truly fantastic tale, worthy of Rider Haggard, and it has turned the study of human evolution on its head.
And then there is the report that dates the stone tools found on Flores as being 1.1 million years old. "That is utterly remarkable on its own," adds Morwood. "Until we found these dates, the longest period of island isolation that we knew about occurred on Tasmania where the aboriginal people were cut off from mainland Australia 11,000 years ago. We thought that was an amazing length of time. But now we have found an island where early humans were cut off from the rest of evolution for more than a million years." In addition, there are those completed digs carried out by Morwood which suggest that some type of human being was making stone implements up to two million years ago.
A crucial aspect to this remarkable story is the region's geography, Morwood believes. The ocean currents and the remoteness of Flores make the island difficult to get to, so once a species does get there, it will remain well protected on it, he argues. "Flores seems to protect species that are long past their use-by dates. There were those pygmy elephants, and the Komodo dragon, for example. And now we have Homo floresiensis. It may be that only a few animals get there but when they do arrive they tend to survive for a long time, which has been science's good fortune."
That is putting it mildly. Had not the original Australian team, led by Morwood, uncovered those hobbit remains in 2004, the story of humanity's African exodus would have been considered a fairly simple affair.
According to this version of events, Homo erectus evolved from apemen predecessors, such as Australopithecus africanus, in Africa and then headed off around the Old World more than a million years ago, armed with a great physique and a modest intellect. These allowed it to settle across Africa, Asia and Europe. This diaspora was then followed by a second wave of humans – our own species, Homo sapiens – which emerged from Africa 100,000 years ago and took over the planet, replacing all pockets of its predecessors it encountered.
Now a far more complex picture is emerging. Ancient apemen, who might have been thought to lack the nous for global conquest, appear to have done the trick almost a million years earlier. One of the major tenets of human evolution, the story of our world conquest, is now urgently in need of revision.
As to the fate of H. floresiensis, that is unclear. The species disappears abruptly from the archaeological record 17,000 years ago. But why? They had apparently survived quite happily on the island for more than a million years. So what did for them in the end?
There are two competing answers. The first suggests that the species, after all the good fortune that had helped it endure the vicissitudes of life in the Malay Archipelago, ran out of luck. "There is a thick layer of ash in the Liang Bua cave above the most recent hobbit remains," says Stringer. "We now know this was caused by a major volcanic eruption which occurred about 17,000 years ago. So it may be that they were just unlucky with the local geology." According to this vision, the little folk of Flores were wiped out by choking plumes of volcanic ash or died of starvation on an island denuded of vegetation.
It would have been a pretty terrible way to go. Yet neither Stringer nor Morwood is convinced that was what happened, despite the tight link between dates of eruptions on the island and the disappearance of the species from the fossil record. Instead, they suspect a very different agent: the bloody hand of modern humans. "Look at our track record," says Morwood. When Homo sapiens entered Europe 40,000 years ago, on its route out of Africa, they would have encountered the continent's original inhabitants, the Neanderthals. Within a few millenniums, the Neanderthals had been rendered extinct.
Stringer agrees. Homo sapiens left Africa about 100,000 years ago and by the time hobbits became extinct on Flores, modern humans were all over south-east Asia. "I cannot see Homo floresiensis keeping modern humans off the island. There must have been encounters between them and us. It is wonderful to speculate what might have happened when they met up, but I suspect that those moderns used up the resources that the hobbit needed to survive."