Three years ago archaeologists found a skull on the Indonesian island of Flores that belonged to a hominin so small that it earned the nickname “Hobbit.” A furious debate ensued: the fossil discoverers classify the meter-tall hominin as part of a separate species that lived as recently as 12,000 years ago; others maintain it was a modern human who had microcephaly, in which the brain fails to reach normal size. Fresh evidence has fired up the newspecies camp. Paleoanthropologists at Florida State University created virtual skull casts from nine human cases of microcephaly and concluded that the Hobbit skull did not match their dimensions.
The group reports its finding in the February 13 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Perhaps more important, officials have reopened the cave where the Hobbit was discovered, along with a new chamber underneath it that may harbor new specimens.