Homo Floresiensis is the name given to a tiny but somewhat complete skeleton discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003 by archaeologists hunting for proof of the migration of modern humans from Asia to Australia. In popular culture, it was dubbed “The Hobbit,” after the breakfast-loving little people of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Further investigation moved the estimated survival time of the species back to roughly 50,000 years from the previous estimate of around 12,000 years.
Nonetheless, a retired anthropology professor from the University of Alberta claims that there was likely missing evidence suggesting the species is still around and that, or at least within recent history.
Gregory Forth, author of the soon-to-be-released book Between Ape and Human, writes an opinion article for The Scientist in which he claims palaeontologists as well as other researchers have ignored Indigenous knowledge and reports of a “ape-man” dwelling in the jungles of Flores.
“My aim in writing the book was to find the best explanation — that is, the most rational and empirically best supported — of Lio accounts of the creatures,” Forth opines in the piece. “These include reports of sightings by more than 30 eyewitnesses, all of whom I spoke with directly. And I conclude that the best way to explain what they told me is that a non-sapiens hominin has survived on Flores to the present or very recent times.”
According to his account, the Lio people who live on the island have a folk zoology that includes legends about humans changing into animals when they migrate to and adjust to new settings, which he compares to Lamarckism, the transmission of developed physical features.
“As my fieldwork revealed, such posited changes reflect local observations of similarities and differences between a supposed ancestral species and its differentiated descendants,” he says.
Since they lack the advanced language and technology of humanity, the Lio just label these beings as animals. However, others have noticed their uncanny resemblance to humans.
“For the Lio, the ape-man’s appearance as something incompletely human makes the creature anomalous and hence problematic and disturbing,” Forth continued. H. floresiensis’ last “known” existence is at least 50,000 years in the past. However, Forth stresses the need of including Indigenous knowledge into studies of hominid evolutionary origin.
“Our initial instinct, I suspect, is to regard the extant ape-men of Flores as completely imaginary. But, taking seriously what Lio people say, I’ve found no good reason to think so,” he concludes. “What they say about the creatures, supplemented by other sorts of evidence, is fully consistent with a surviving hominin species, or one that only went extinct within the last 100 years.”
So, what do you think? Is the Hobbit-man still out there? It’s possible..
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