Science News reports: Hobbits disappeared from their island home nearly 40,000 years earlier than previously thought, new evidence suggests.
This revised timeline doesn’t erase uncertainty about the evolutionary origins of these controversial Indonesian hominids. Nor will the new evidence resolve a dispute about whether hobbits represent a new species, Homo floresiensis, or were small-bodied Homo sapiens.
Hobbits vanished about 50,000 years ago at Liang Bua Cave on Flores, an island situated between Borneo and Australia’s northern coast, say archaeologist Thomas Sutikna of the University of Wollongong, Australia, and his colleagues.
Cave sediment dating to about 12,000 years ago, which lies just above soil that yielded H. floresiensis remains, provided an initial estimate of when these diminutive hominids with chimp-sized brains died out. But that sediment washed into the cave long after H. floresiensis was gone, covering much older, hobbit-bearing soil, the researchers report in the March 31 Nature. [Continue reading…]