The sighting of an ‘ape-man’ in Indonesia could be proof that the species Homo floresiensis, thought to be long extinct, is still alive today, according to an anthropologist. But other experts are skeptical.
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An early human species dubbed the ‘hobbit’ and thought extinct thousands of years ago may still be alive today, an expert has controversially claimed.
Homo floresiensis, nicknamed the “hobbit” because he was around 3ft 6in tall, is said to have lived on the island of Flores, now part of Indonesia, between 60,000 and 700,000 years ago.
He was a toolmaker with a small brain and big feet and it is unknown where the species evolved from.
Now, an anthropologist has surprisingly claimed that the “hobbit” could be alive and well today.
Gregory Forth, who worked at the University of Alberta before retiring, argues that sightings of an “ape-man” on Flores could be proof that the ancient human ancestor still exists.
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He told Live Science: “We just don’t know when this species became extinct or dare I say – I dare say – we don’t even know if it is extinct. So there is a possibility that ‘she’s still alive.”
But other experts on Homo floresiensis are understandably skeptical of this seemingly wild claim.
“Flores is an island that is about the same size as Connecticut and has two million people living there today,” John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison told Live Science.
The population is spread all over the island, he added.
“Really, the idea that there’s a large primate that’s not seen on this island that survives in a population that can sustain itself is pretty close to zero,” Hawks said.
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Forth, who has been carrying out anthropological research on the island since 1984, disagrees. Over the years he heard of a number of local sightings of small hairy humanoid creatures living in the forest and wrote about them in his research until 2003 when Homo floresiensis was first discovered and Forth made the connection.
“I heard about these little human-like creatures in an area called Lio, said to be still alive, and people were talking about what they looked like,” he explained.
In an excerpt from his new book, Between Ape and Human: An Anthropologist on the Trail of a Hidden Hominoid, (Pegasus Books, 2022), Forth writes about an interview with a man who says he got rid of the corpse of ‘a creature that could was not an ape but neither was it a human, with straight, light-colored hair on the body, a well-shaped nose and the tip of a tail.
Since he began his research, Forth has collected 30 eyewitness accounts of similar creatures that he says fit the description of the “hobbit.”
Bones of Homo floresiensis – thought to come from at least nine individuals – were first discovered at Liang Bua on Flores in 2003. The skeletons included a complete skull.
The youngest evidence that hobbits use the cave dates back to 50,000 years ago, Elizabeth Veatch, a zooarchaeologist who studies the species, told Live Science.
“Based on faunal evidence, there was likely an environmental change that occurred around 60,000 years ago that altered the landscape around Liang Bua, which caused Homo floresiensis migrate elsewhere on the island to forage in more suitable habitats,” Veatch said.
In 2014, archaeologists discovered another site on Flores, Mata Menge, with bones dating back around 700,000 years. They are thought to come from a much older population of Homo floresiensis. Stone tools were also found at the site.
The species has not been found on any other island apart from Flores.