Homo floresiensis, a one-metre tall early human that lived on the Indonesian island of Flores 60,000 to 100,000 years ago, seemed a likely descendent of Homo erectus in Asia. However, a recent analysis of the species – also known as “Flores Man” or “the Hobbit” – indicates he evolved from a much more archaic species, probably Homo habilis. ( See Digest, page 13.) This raises the prospect that Homo erectus was not the first early human to have ventured out of Africa. Either Homo floresiensis or one of his forebears – perhaps even Homo habilis – also made the journey.
By about a million years ago, Flores was home to these venturers. Older floresiensis- like fossils, from a different site on Flores, date to 700,000 years ago, and stone tools on the island to one million years ago.
Teeth from Homo sapiens that date to 46,000 years ago have also been found in the Hobbit caves, which suggests that the two species might have co-existed for a time – perhaps amicably, perhaps not. Given the slightly younger age of the teeth, it is possible the arrival of Homo sapiens tolled the death knell for Homo floresiensis.
Homo florensis: The remains of this hominid were found in 2003 at the Liang Bua Cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia.