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Anthropologist thinks a human sub-species might still be alive on an Indonesian island

On speaking to the indigenous people of Flores island, the scientist believes that an archaic hominin species could still exist.

Anthropologist thinks a human sub-species might still be alive on an Indonesian island
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Magda Ehlers

The earth holds an abundance of scientific marvels that are still unexplored. We know that there are places in this world that are home to rare species of flora and fauna but inaccessible and untouched by humans. What we don't know is that there is a slight possibility of an ancient species of humans, presumed to be extinct, existing on a remote Indonesian island to this day. This shocking speculation was made by anthropologist, Gregory Forth who believes that a hominin species, Homo floresiensis, still lives in Flores island, Indonesia, reports The Scientist.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | S Migaj
Representative Image Source: Pexels | S Migaj

Forth's inference about this species was based on the momentous discovery of fossils that resembled the hominin species but smaller. In 2004, a team led by Mike Morwood, an archaeologist from the University of Wollongong, Australia discovered a diminutive skull in the Liang Bua caves of Flores Island. Considering the small ape-like physique, the Homo floresiensis was labeled 'Hobbit' after the fictional characters from J.R.R. Tolkien's book series. The genesis of these hobbits and their correlation with other hominin species is still being debated. But, when Forth began conducting ethnographic fieldwork on Flores Island he heard from the locals that humanlike creatures, though seemed evasive, were witnessed in the isolated mountain territories of the island. Also, Morwood has made a comment on this folklore saying the people's description "fitted floresiensis to a T." 

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Tom Fisk
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Tom Fisk

Focusing mainly on the information from firsthand experiences of the indigenous people called Lio, Forth carried out his research on the island. The Lio tribes are occupants of the island's most rugged mountainous terrains with almost no exposure to literacy and technology. Forth mentions "To be sure, the Lio don’t have anything akin to modern evolutionary theory, with speciation driven by mutation and natural selection" and adds "But if evolutionism is fundamentally concerned with how different species arose and how differences are maintained, then Lio people and other Flores islanders have for a long time been asking the same questions." He said that Lio people had a similar classification of animal species as modern systematics and that they distinguish humans from non-human animals not just on morphological aspects but by associating with expressions of culture, language and technology exclusively to humans.

Speaking about how reliable the Lio tribe's information is, Forth explained, "For the Lio, the ape-man’s appearance as something incompletely human makes the creature anomalous and hence problematic and disturbing," and adds "For academic scientists, H. floresiensis is similarly problematic, but not so much for its resemblance to H. sapiens rather, it’s because the species appears very late in the geological record, surviving to a time well after the appearance of modern humans." Though he acknowledges the fact that some features of the hobbit creatures, which Lio people call 'ape-men', might fit an undiscovered species of ape, most of their statements along with the biogeography of Indonesia support the hypothesis that H. floresiensis still exist. Forth spoke to over 30 eyewitnesses whose experiences made him infer that the species did not go extinct 12000 years ago as suggested by the original research.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Boris Hamer
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Boris Hamer

Though the archaeologists who originally excavated the hobbit remains remarked those as extinct species, Forth said "Our initial instinct, I suspect, is to regard the extant ape-men of Flores as completely imaginary. But, taking seriously what Lio people say, I’ve found no good reason to think so," and added "What they say about the creatures, supplemented by other sorts of evidence, is fully consistent with a surviving hominin species, or one that only went extinct within the last 100 years." The anthropologist hopes that other life scientists will integrate this indigenous knowledge while studying the evolution of hominin species in Indonesia and other parts of the world.

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