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New Human Bones Add to 'Hobbit' Evidence

Scientists digging in a remote Indonesian cave have uncovered a jaw bone that they say adds more evidence that a tiny prehistoric Hobbit-like species once existed.

That is the conclusion of scientists who announced the discovery of the remains of more of the tiny prehistoric humans nicknamed for the diminutive stars of the 'Lord of the Rings' saga.

The jaw is from the ninth individual believed to have lived as recently as 12,000 years ago. The research team strongly believes that the skeletons belong to a separate species of early human that shared Earth with modern humans far more recently than anyone thought.

The bones have enchanted many anthropologists who have come to accept the interpretation of these diminutive skeletons marooned on Flores with dwarf elephants and other miniaturized animals, giving the discovery a kind of fairy tale quality.

But a vocal scientific minority insists the specimens are nothing more than the bones of modern humans that suffered from microencephaly, a broadly defined genetic disorder that results in small brain size. At least two groups of opponents have submitted their own studies to other leading scientific journals refuting the Flores work.

The result is a controversy unlike any other in the often-contentious study of human origins. Those caught in the middle say the debate is a real test for what we know about human evolution.

October 16, 2005 |

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