ThomasJoined: January 30, 2007Status: OfflinePosts: 94Rep:
Of Hobbits and Men - Tolkien's imaginary creatures were once a reality Tue Jan 30, 2007 3:38:29 AM#33166Perm Link
In 2003, a research team made an interesting dicovery on the Indonesian island of Flores: the very small remains of a hominid dating 18,000 years back. Whereas some scientists claimed that it was most probably some kind of pygmy or a human suffering from microcephaly (an abnormally small skull), others argued that it may have belonged to a different species, which they called LB1, or Homo floresiensis.
New research indicates that this 'Hobbit' is indeed the representant of another species, closely related to Homo sapiens, but definitely distinct. Dean Falk, an American paleoneurologist, and her team published recently an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, which confirmed this by creating detailed maps of the imprints that the brain left inside the skull of this ancient hominid.
Microcephaly, a genetic disease that still occurs today, is usually accompanied by mental retardation. Therefore, the sophisticated tools and remnants of a fire found near the skeleton spurred further studies, as they indicated that the hominid in question had a very similar congnition and ability to that of the humans living on earth at the same time, ruling out any sort of mental impairment. Falk's team made a three-dimensional computerised model of the small hominid's braincase, reproducing the surface of the brain in detail. This map revealed that most parts of the cortex and other anatomical features were consistent with higher cognitive processes. The Hobbit's brain may have been smaller that that of H. sapiens, but it was apparently rewired and reorganised, making it unique as compared to normal and diseased modern human brains.
So we are faced here with the evidence that Tolkien's little people have existed -- although most probably in a different 'version' from that of Bilbo and others -- at the same time as modern humans. The interesting thing is now to find out out where this species came from, and what became of it. Unless we imagine a tale of such creatures being still around and living hidden from us, we can safely conclude that they were driven to extinction. So, as they apparently had the same cognition as us, it may be beneficial to determine what was their fate, lest we suffer the same predicament.