Scientists Find Ancient Hobbit-Sized People

The authors counter that since they submitted their paper they have found five to seven more remains in the cave site whose existence ranges from as long ago as 95,000 years ago to as recently as 13,000 years ago. The features of the new bones suggest they're of similar petite proportions. They add that characteristics seen in modern people who have pathologies causing a small brain were not evident in the ancient remains.

As for the little people's demise, geological records show there was a massive volcanic eruption on the island about 12,000 years ago, which could have eliminated any lingering populations. The first signs of modern man on the island date to just 11,000 years ago.

Roberts says the volcano could have "sealed the fate of the hobbits and the pygmy elephants." But local folk tales on the island of Flores hint that the small people may have persisted even longer.

"The stories suggest there may be more than a grain of truth to the idea that they were still living on Flores up until the Dutch arrived in the 1500s," Roberts said. "The stories suggest they lived in caves. The villagers would leave gourds with food out for them to eat, but legend has it these were the guests from hell -- they'd eat everything, including the gourds!"

So did the two human species meet and interact? For now a lack of evidence means we can only wonder -- and settle for the fictional tales of J.R.R. Tolkien.

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