We all love JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” but did you know Hobbits were once real?

To our common knowledge, Hobbits are a fictional, diminutive, humanoid race who inhabit the lands of Middle Earth in J. R. R. Tolkien’s fiction novel “The Hobbit.”

They are also referred to as Halflings. Hobbits first appeared in the novel The Hobbit, whose titular hobbit is the protagonist, Bilbo Baggins.Hobbit

Nevertheless, paleoanthropolgists have discovered the existence of real ‘Hobbits’ that had once existed on Flores, Indonesia.  The bones and tools of tiny hominins were found on the island of Flores, Indonesia and it has shaken up the world of paleoanthropology.

During the 1950s and 60s, a Dutch priest named Father Theodor Verhoeven lived and worked on Flores at a Catholic Seminary. Verhoeven had a keen interest in archeology and had studied it at university. While living on Flores, he identified dozens of archeological sites and conducted excavations at many of these, including the now famous site of Liang Bua where the “hobbits” of human evolution were discovered.  For the most part, his findings were dismissed or outright ignored.

Almost thirty years later, an Indonesian-Dutch research team uncovered evidence at the Soa Basin which confirmed Verhoeven’s original findings.  Years later, more researchers have discovered even more evidence.  The remains of an individual that would have stood about 3.5 feet (1.1 m) in height were discovered in 2003 on the island of Flores in Indonesia. These discoveries are Homo floresiensis which is an extinct species widely believed to be in the genus Homo (humans). Homo floresiensis” is also referred to as “Flores Man,” “hobbit,” and “Flo.”

Flores in Indonesia, shown highlighted in red
Flores in Indonesia, shown highlighted in red

The partial skeletons of nine individuals have been recovered, including one complete skull, which is referred to as “LB1.”

Homo_floresiensisThese remains have been the subject of intense research to determine whether they represent a species distinct from modern humans. This hominin is remarkable for its small body and brain and for its survival until relatively recent times.  They have possibly existed as recently as 12,000 years ago, the period of time when Paleo-Indians began crossing the Land-Ice bridge exposed during the Ice Age on the Bering Strait (Beringia) into the Americas.  The “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia had existed as early as this time period and perhaps even later.

Skull comparison
Skull comparison

Some scholars suggest that the historical Homo floresiensis may be connected by folk memory to Ebu Gogo myths prevalent on the isle of Flores.

The Ebu Gogo are a group of human-like creatures that appear in the mythology of Flores, Indonesia. In the Nage language of central Flores, ebu means ‘grandmother’ and gogo means ‘he who eats anything’. A colloquial English equivalent might be something like “Granny Glutton.”

The Nage people of Flores describe the Ebu Gogo as having been able walkers and fast runners around 1.5 m tall. They reportedly had wide and flat noses, broad faces with large mouths and hairy bodies.

Homo floresiensis - steps of forensic facial reconstruction
Homo floresiensis – steps of forensic facial reconstruction

The females also had “long, pendulous breasts.” They were said to have murmured in what was assumed to be their own language and could reportedly repeat what was said to them in a parrot-like fashion.

The Nage people believe that the Ebu Gogo were alive at the time of the arrival of Portuguese trading ships in the 17th century, and some hold that they survived as recently as the 20th century, but are now no longer seen.

There is dispute as to what happened to this species of homo or when they ceased to exist, but we have confirmed that they indeed had once existed.



by Njord Kane © 2016 Spangenhelm Publishing

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