WERE “HOBBITS” THE FIRST HOMINIDS OUT OF AFRICA?

Time Magazine and the Guardian has reported that new research suggests that the ancient race of tiny, primitive people known as Homo floresiensis — who used stone tools to hunt pony-sized elephants and battle huge Komodo dragons — may have been the first to leave Africa and colonize other parts of the world.

The discovery of the bones of miniature hominids (colloquially known as “Hobbits”)  on an Indonesian island six years ago stunned the scientific world and has been surround by a maelstrom of controversy ever since. Now a growing number of scientists believe that these hobbits are probably the direct descendants of some of the first ape-men — such as the famous “Lucy” — to evolve on the African savannah three million years ago.

Earlier this month, researchers presented work at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, in Chicago, suggesting that Homo floresiensis may have left Africa a full million years earlier than any other hominids were thought to have ventured out from the home continent.

That would mean that these the diminutive hominids, not Homo erectus, were the first to migrate from Africa, eventually traveling half a world from their probable birthplace in the Rift Valley to make their homes among the orangutans, giant turtles and rare birds of Indonesia. David Strait of the University of Albany told Scientific American recently:

“The possibility that a very primitive member of the genus Homo left Africa, roughly two million years ago, and that a descendant population persisted until only several thousand years ago, is one of the more provocative hypotheses to have emerged in anthropology during the past few years.”

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