Wrist bones said to distinguish hobbits

New fossils enter debate over tiny humanlike species that lived in Indonesia

Three new hobbit wristbones unearthed on the Indonesian island of Flores support the contested idea that these half-sized individuals belonged to a species called Homo floresiensis, scientists conclude in a paper published online January 4 in the Journal of Human Evolution. The new finds, as well as the wrist of a previously reported hobbit skeleton, differ markedly from human wrists, says a team led by anthropologist Caley M. Orr of Stony Brook University in New York. Hobbits’ wrists limited their ability to make and use stone tools, the scientists contend. Basic stone cutting implements excavated on Flores date to 800,000 years ago. Hobbits died out around 17,000 years ago, after having descended from a member of the human evolutionary family that must have reached Indonesia by 1 million years ago, the researchers propose (SN: 5/8/10, p. 14).  Other researchers consider hobbits to have been human pygmies.

Bruce Bower has written about the behavioral sciences for Science News since 1984. He writes about psychology, anthropology, archaeology and mental health issues.

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