Scientists from the United States, Australia and Indonesia have completed research supporting the theory that recently discovered hominid fossils on the island of Flores in Indonesia are of an early and separate species of humans, rather than a deformed or pigmy modern human as some skeptics claim. This and other research could help prove that modern humans and a second species of humans – Homo floresiensis – coexisted on Earth until very recently.
Researchers digitally recreated brain structures from the brain case of a Homo floresiensis skull. They did the same from chimpanzee, Homo erectus, and modern human skulls, including samples from a human pygmy and human microcephalic (abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain.) They then compared these brain structures. They found few similarities between Homo floresiensis and either the pygmy or microcephalic. There were some similarities between Homo floresiensis and both Homo erectus and modern humans, but also important differences.
Homo floresiensis adults appear to have grown to only 3 feet tall – earning them the nickname of “Hobbits” – with a brain about one third the size of a modern human brain. However, the species may have had sufficient cognitive ability to build fires, create tools, and use weapons to hunt animals. The fossils have been dated to only 18,000 years ago. Research is ongoing as explorers continue to search for more fossil evidence of Homo floresiensis in Flores.