In 2003, scientists made a startling find in a remote cave on the Indonesian island of Flores: The skull and skeleton of an adult female hominin, a group consisting of modern humans and extinct human species, who stood only about a meter tall. That discovery sparked a fierce debate about whether the hominin—officially dubbed Homo floresiensis but often called the "hobbit"—was a separate species or a diseased modern human. Now, many of the same scientists who made the discovery have radically revised their estimate of the fossils' age, based on an exhaustive new analysis of the cave's geology. Instead of living 18,000 years ago, as they originally reported, the hobbit lived between 60,000 and 100,000 years ago—some 10,000 years before H. sapiens arrived in the region.
That new, much older date range for H. floresiensis makes it "impossible to argue that it is a pathologically-dwarfed modern human," says Russell Ciochon, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City who was not involved in the study. "In my opinion, this paper drives the final nail in the coffin" of that hypothesis.
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