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Liang Bua, a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Flores. The Liang Bua team prepares for new archaeological excavations. Eight years of further excavations and study at the Indonesian cave site of Liang Bua have pushed back the time of disappearance of the ‘hobbits’ of Flores (Homo floresiensis) from as recently as 12,000 years ago to about 50,000 years ago.
Liang Bua Team

The “hobbits” that once inhabited Indonesia died out thousands of years earlier than originally thought, a new study found.

Researchers previously believed the remains of Homo floresiensis—which scientists dubbed “hobbits” because they grew to just a little more than 3 feet tall and had small brains—dated to as recently as 12,000 years ago, but new findings caused them to push the date much further back, according to report in the journal Nature. Following the initial discovery of the remains in 2003 in a cave called Liang Bua, further excavations from 2007 to 2014 revealed that the remains mostly dated between 60,000 and 100,000 years ago.

Modern humans were beginning to explore the islands of Southeast Asia at the time, but it is unclear if the two species crossed paths on Flores, the island where the remains were found.

The finding raises new questions about why Homo floresiensis disappeared about 50,000 years ago, around the same time as other species, including vultures and an extinct relative of elephants, also vanished from the area, the researchers said.

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