Hobbit-sized humans appear to have lived as recently as 50,000 years ago

Credit: Ninara
Credit: Ninara

Fossil evidence of [Homo floresiensis and Homo luzonensis found in Southeast Asia], 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.

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.

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[A 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.

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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.

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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 [researcher João] Teixeira, a population geneticist, in an email.

In other words, H. floresiensis or H. luzonensis might actually be the elusive southern Denisovans.

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