Scientists have discovered more remains of the strange, small people that once lived on Flores island, Indonesia.
The announcement last year detailing a single, partial skeleton caused a sensation when it was claimed to be a human species new to science.
Homo floresiensis, as it was called, was little more than a metre tall and lived 18,000 years ago.
Now, the same team tells Nature journal it has skeletal remains from at least nine of the "Hobbit-like" individuals.
The new discoveries include missing parts of the old skeleton - designated LB1 after the caved dig site at Liang Bua - and a collection of other bones, such as jaw and cranial fragments, a vertebra, arm and leg bones, toes and fingers, reports BBC.
The group of Australian and Indonesian researchers who announced the first findings a year ago and proclaimed the new species Homo floresiensis describe the additional bones in a report to be published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.
They said the bones were fragments of nine individuals of unusually small stature, little more than three feet tall, and, judging by one skull, with brains the size of a chimpanzee's. The newly discovered lower jaw was almost identical to one previously found, except that it appeared to be 3,000 years younger.
"We can now reconstruct the body proportions of H. floresiensis with some certainty," the scientists, led by Michael J. Morwood and Peter Brown, both of the University of New England in Australia, said in the report.
"The finds further demonstrate," they continued, that the original skull and partial skeleton was not from "an aberrant or pathological individual, but is representative of a long-term population" that was present during the period from 95,000 to 12,000 years ago.
The implication that made the original discovery a year ago such a sensation was that these "little people of Flores," as they are commonly called, represent a distinct species that shared the earth with modern humans far more recently than anyone had supposed.
In a commentary in the journal, Daniel E. Lieberman, a biological anthropologist at Harvard University, said, "All in all, it seems reasonable for Morwood and colleagues to stick to their original hypothesis that H. floresiensis is a new species," informs the New York Times.
Photo: Peter Brown P.T.
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