Hobbits and Scotsmen

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The Washington Post reports:

Scientists have discovered a tiny species of ancient human that lived 18,000 years ago on an isolated island east of the Java Sea—a prehistoric hunter in a "lost world" of giant lizards and miniature elephants.

These "little people" stood about three feet tall and had heads the size of grapefruit. They co-existed with modern humans for thousands of years yet appear to be more closely akin to a long-extinct human ancestor.

Researchers suspect the earlier ancestor may have migrated to the island and evolved into a smaller dwarf species as it adapted to the island's limited resources. This phenomenon, known as the "island rule," is common in the animal world but had never been seen before in human evolution.

In other archeological news, a find in Scotland suggests that the village of Dreghorn has been continuously occupied for some 5,500 years. This was actually reported back in February—but given the context, eight months ago seems positively recent.

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  1. Damn. I wish they would have named the thing *Homo hobbitus*

  2. Check out: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=198867&page=1

    Roberts says the volcano could have “sealed the fate of the hobbits and the pygmy elephants.” But local folk tales on the island of Flores hint that the small people may have persisted even longer.

    “The stories suggest there may be more than a grain of truth to the idea that they were still living on Flores up until the Dutch arrived in the 1500s,” Roberts said. “The stories suggest they lived in caves. The villagers would leave gourds with food out for them to eat, but legend has it these were the guests from hell ? they’d eat everything, including the gourds!”

  3. Jerico has that town beat by over 6,000 years, as it was founded around 9,000 BCE. It does make it older than any other northern European town/city I know of, at least from the “continuously occupied perspective (Armagh Ireland has been inhabited since 1,000-700 BCE, Edinburgh since 2,000 BCE, and Chur in Switzerland since 3,000 BCE).

  4. I read about some village in Scotland that had sewers and flush toilets thousands of years ago. And the Scots were practical then too: the sewers emptied over a cliff into the sea.

  5. Yeah I guess somebody else would have thought of that before I did. Don’t know why they are so excited about the small size of the cranium. The ratio of cranium volume to body mass would be more informative.

  6. The article goes on to clarify that the little guys had grapefruit sized BRAINS, not heads.

    That thankfully paints a less disturbing looking mental image of them in my head.

  7. skippy,

    Still doesn’t tell us much. Brain size by itself isn’t necessarily an indicator of intelligence (let’s not repeat here the mistakes of 19th century anthropologists).

  8. ??? Never implied it did. I’m just glad there weren’t 3 feet tall people with literally grapefruit sized HEADS running around. Creep-y.

    If you want some data on relative size, check out Nature’s site, or you can look at pharyngula.org for a nifty graph.

  9. skippy,

    Well, I thought that you did imply such. But no matter, as long as we are on the same page.

    Jesse Walker,

    Much of the hominid history of the Pacific islands and land masses is of one group of hominids pushing another group of hominids off an island and onto another one.

  10. Someone get Crichton on the phone, the next sequel to “Jurassic Park” – “Pleistocene Park” – practically writes itself.

  11. Researchers suspect the earlier ancestor may have migrated to the island and evolved into a smaller dwarf species as it adapted to the island’s limited resources. This phenomenon, known as the “island rule,” is common in the animal world but had never been seen before in human evolution.

    So island living can be hobbit-forming.

  12. “So island living can be hobbit-forming.”

    Holy crap.

  13. “So island living can be hobbit-forming.”

    …and you wonder why threads die in your wake?

  14. “I am become Stevo, destroyer of threads.” 🙂

  15. In the “continuous human habitation” vein, isn’t Damascus generally accepted as numero uno? Jericho looks to be older, though maybe it fails the “continuous” test. Of course, one must weigh Hobbiton’s claims, now.

    I might add that my Scottish ancestors, when they weren’t cross-breeding with selkies, had flying cars and robots 10,000 years ago. Unfortunately, they were far, far behind modern society in matters of cuisine.

  16. skippy,

    Disturbing? I think it would be cool, especially if they went around saying “Gabba Gabba Hey!”

  17. Good point, joe. I suppose the more appropriate phrase would be “continual human habitation”. After all, any town that was founded thousands of years ago surely was wiped out or evacuated at some point during that time. If a location actually did manage to be continuously inhabited for that long. . .well, as you correctly pointed out, there’s no way to really prove it.

  18. I suspect that this is yet another example of God laying a false trail to test the believers, and identify the evolutionists who are bound for the furnace. Just like the dinosaur bones.

  19. I don’t think any “god” did this, me being an atheist. You christians always ignore EVIDENCE and try to destroy it becasue you can’t stand that you’ve wasted your whole life and you wan’t to be immortal so you cling to an after life.

    Anyway, I think this discovery faurther proves the theory of evolution, not that it needs to be faurther proven.

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