Collection |

The hobbit at 10

The remains of the tiny hominin Homo floresiensis (nicknamed the ‘hobbit’) still raise supersize questions ten years after the publication in Nature of their discovery in a cave on the remote island of Flores in Indonesia. This collection of reporting, comment and research — new and from Nature’s archives — examines the controversy surrounding the origins and validity of this species, including whether it belongs in our genus, Homo.

Content

  • Nature News | News Feature

    In 2004, researchers announced the discovery of Homo floresiensis, a small relative of modern humans that lived as recently as 18,000 years ago. The ‘hobbit’ is now considered the most important hominin fossil in a generation. Here, the scientists behind the find tell its story.

    • Ewen Callaway
  • Nature News | News

    Four scientists recall the discovery of Homo floresiensis and discuss the still-open question of its place in human evolution.

    • Ewen Callaway

News archive

  • Nature News | News

    Skull scans suggest that the small-brained Indonesian hominid was a modern human suffering from a developmental disorder.

    • Matt Kaplan
  • Nature News | News

    Russell L. Ciochon and his team are in Indonesia investigating the geological source and age of one of the world's biggest caches of Homo erectus.

    • Miriam Frankel
  • Nature News | News

    Stone tools reveal that hominins lived on the Indonesian island of Flores a million years ago.

    • Rex Dalton

News & Views

  • Nature | News & Views

    The sequencing of ancient DNA is generating dramatic results. The sequence from a bone fragment has revealed the existence of an unknown type of extinct human ancestor that lived in Asia 40,000 years ago.

    • Terence A. Brown
  • Nature | News & Views

    Fossils of tiny ancient humans, found on the island of Flores, have provoked much debate and speculation. Evidence that they are a real species comes from analyses of the foot and also — more surprisingly — of dwarf hippos.

    • Daniel E. Lieberman
  • Nature | Review Article

    The narrative of human evolution that has held sway for many years, and captured the public imagination along the way, is known as ‘Out of Africa 1’. This postulates that the genus Homo originated in Africa, and as H. ergaster or H. erectus, left Africa about 1.8 million years ago. They then colonized Asia and eventually Europe and beyond. But does this conjectural migration from a hypothetical centre of origin still fit the facts? Robin Dennell and Wil Roebroeks think not, and argue that recent fossil finds in Chad and across Asia mean that it's time to construct a new model to fit the sparse but widely spread hominin fossil record.

    • Robin Dennell
    •  &  Wil Roebroeks
  • Nature | News & Views

    We are the only living species of the genus Homo. Given the startling results of a cave excavation in Southeast Asia, it seems that we coexisted with another species until much more recently than had been thought.

    • Marta Mirazón Lahr
    •  &  Robert Foley

Research

  • Nature | Letter | open

    Ancient mitochondrial DNA from a hominin individual who lived in the mountains of Central Asia between 48,000–30,000 years ago has been sequenced. Comparative genomics suggest that this mitochondrial DNA derives from an out-of-Africa migration distinct from the ones that gave rise to Neanderthals and modern humans. It also seems that this hominin lived in close spatio-temporal proximity to Neanderthals and modern humans.

    • Johannes Krause
    • , Qiaomei Fu
    • , Jeffrey M. Good
    • , Bence Viola
    • , Michael V. Shunkov
    • , Anatoli P. Derevianko
    •  &  Svante Pääbo
  • Nature | Letter

    Evidence for hominin activity on Flores, Indonesia, has been thought to go back at least 800,000 years, as shown by fission-track dating at Mata Menge in the Soa Basin. However, new research at another locality in the Soa Basin uses the more accurate technique of 40Ar/39Ar dating to show that hominins were living on Flores at least a million years ago.

    • Adam Brumm
    • , Gitte M. Jensen
    • , Gert D. van den Bergh
    • , Michael J. Morwood
    • , Iwan Kurniawan
    • , Fachroel Aziz
    •  &  Michael Storey
  • Nature | Letter

    Body size reduction in mammals is accompanied by only a moderate reduction in brain size, so that the brains of dwarfs are proportionately larger than those of giants. Here, the brains of extinct dwarf hippos from the island of Madagascar are shown to be disproportionately very much smaller than those of their closest mainland relatives. If this trend no longer holds true on islands, it may explain the exceptionally small brain size of the diminutive hominin, Homo floresiensis.

    • Eleanor M. Weston
    •  &  Adrian M. Lister
  • Nature | Letter

    The 'hobbit', Homo floresiensis, was a species of diminutive hominin that lived on the island of Flores in Indonesia until around 14,000 years ago. Analysis of the legs and feet of the partial skeleton of the type specimen (LB1) shows some ape-like features which suggest an origin not from Homo erectus but rather some other, more primitive, hominin whose dispersal into southeast Asia is still undocumented.

    • W. L. Jungers
    • , W. E. H. Harcourt-Smith
    • , R. E. Wunderlich
    • , M. W. Tocheri
    • , S. G. Larson
    • , T. Sutikna
    • , Rhokus Awe Due
    •  &  M. J. Morwood
  • Nature | Article

    The primitive hominins from Dmanisi in the Republic of Georgia are often thought to be akin to Homo erectus and are arguably the earliest known members of the human family outside Africa. This conclusion has come, so far, from the presentation of postcranial material: now a partial skeleton of an adolescent individual associated with a skull, and remains from three adult individuals, suggest that the Dmanisi hominids are even more primitive than that, akin to Homo habilis.

    • David Lordkipanidze
    • , Tea Jashashvili
    • , Abesalom Vekua
    • , Marcia S. Ponce de León
    • , Christoph P. E. Zollikofer
    • , G. Philip Rightmire
    • , Herman Pontzer
    • , Reid Ferring
    • , Oriol Oms
    • , Martha Tappen
    • , Maia Bukhsianidze
    • , Jordi Agusti
    • , Ralf Kahlke
    • , Gocha Kiladze
    • , Bienvenido Martinez-Navarro
    • , Alexander Mouskhelishvili
    • , Medea Nioradze
    •  &  Lorenzo Rook
  • Nature | Letter

    The brain of Homo floresiensis, the small hominids popularly known as ‘hobbits’, was so small that the species' capacity for stone tool manufacture has been questioned. Instead, it is argued that modern humans made the stone tools found in association with H. floresiensis in Liang Bua cave, in western Flores, Indonesia. Now a new study of 840,000-year-old stone artefacts from Mata Menge in central Flores points to an immigration of toolmakers to the region long before Homo sapiens existed. These tools are similar to the much more recent artefacts found at Liang Bua, suggesting continuity, and probable tool-making abilities for H. floresiensis.

    • Adam Brumm
    • , Fachroel Aziz
    • , Gert D. van den Bergh
    • , Michael J. Morwood
    • , Mark W. Moore
    • , Iwan Kurniawan
    • , Douglas R. Hobbs
    •  &  Richard Fullagar