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Hobbit used tools

01 June 2006

Skull of Homo floresiensis, the human-like metre-tall species nicknamed 'hobbit'. © Peter Brown

Skull of Homo floresiensis, the human-like metre-tall species nicknamed 'hobbit'. © Peter Brown

New research suggests the metre-tall human-like species, nicknamed the hobbit, was clever enough to use tools.

Homo floresiensis was discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004 and has puzzled many scientists about where it came from and where it sits in the human evolutionary tree.

Similar stone tools

Adam Brumm from the Australian National University and colleagues have found similiarities between stone tools found at two sites. One site is Liang Bua cave where the hobbit and other artefacts dated to between 95-74,000 and 12,000 years ago were discovered. The other site 50km to the west at Mata Menge reveals stone artefacts dated to 840-700,000 years ago.

The stone tools at Mata Menge are similar to, and show technological continuity with, the stone tools associated with the hobbit at Liang Bua.

'This reinforces the argument that the hobbit really is a descendant of a population that had lived on the island for a very long time', said Chris Stringer, human origins expert at the Natural History Museum, in an interview with the BBC.

It is usually assumed that only one species of early human, Homo erectus , lived in southeast Asia before modern people arrived there, so the hobbit may have descended from Homo erectus .

Chris adds that we cant guarantee the material is related because of the large gap of time between the two sets of tools but says this is potentially enough time to allow the unusual features of the hobbit to develop.

The research is reported in the journal Nature