“They’re scared of us,” locals told the anthropologist, “and we’re scared of them.”
Image credit: Christopher Mazmanian/Shutterstock.com
A retired anthropologist has provided additional information regarding sightings of a Hobbit-like species by Flores Island inhabitants.
In 2003, archaeologists searching for evidence of the migration of modern humans from Asia to Australia discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores a small, relatively complete skeleton of an extinct human species, which became known as Homo floresiensis. Or, as it became more popularly known, the Hobbit, after the tiny, breakfast-consuming creatures in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.
Initially, it was believed that the species had survived until relatively recently, around 12,000 years ago, but subsequent analysis moved that date back to approximately 50,000 years. However, a retired anthropology professor from the University of Alberta asserts that the species’ continued existence may have been neglected, and Hobbits may still exist today, or at least within living memory.
Gregory Forth contends in an opinion piece for The Scientist promoting his book Between Ape and Human that paleontologists and other scientists have ignored Indigenous knowledge and accounts of an “ape-man” living in the Flores forests.
“My goal in writing the book was to discover the most rational and empirically supported explanation for Lio’s accounts of the creatures,” Forth wrote in the article. “These include sighting reports from over thirty eyewitnesses, each of whom I spoke with firsthand. And I conclude that the most plausible explanation for what they told me is that a non-sapiens hominin has survived on Flores until the present day or very recently.”
The local folk zoology of the island’s Lio inhabitants contains tales of humans transforming into animals as they migrate and adapt to new environments, which he compares to Lamarckism, the inheritance of acquired physical characteristics.
“As my fieldwork revealed, such posited changes reflect local observations of similarities and differences between a supposed ancestral species and its differentiated descendants,” he says.
The Lio consider these beings to be animals, as they lack humans’ complex language and technology. However, their uncanny resemblance to humans is observed. They are described as being upright, bipedal, and relatively pubescent.
In a recent interview with The Debrief, Forth stated, “They say the face looks, well, I would say ape-like.” “But they say monkey-like because they don’t distinguish between monkeys and apes.”
“For the Lio, the ape-man’s appearance as something incompletely human makes the creature anomalous and hence problematic and disturbing,” Forth wrote in The Scientist.
Even though some reports of the unknown animal can be disregarded, he believes there are accounts worthy of consideration, including instances in which the “hominoid” was observed by two or three witnesses and several in which the “hominoid” was dead, allowing the witnesses a closer look.
The most recent date we can definitively attribute the existence of H. floresiensis was 50,000 years ago. However, Forth advocates incorporating Indigenous knowledge into the study of hominin evolution.
“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,” he concludes. “What they say about the creatures, supplemented by other evidence, is fully consistent with a surviving hominin species, or one that only went extinct within the last 100 years.”
Even though skepticism is warranted in the face of such an extraordinary claim, Forth maintains that Lio considers them genuine.
Locals told Forth, “They’re scared of us,” locals told Forth, “and we’re scared of them.”
In December 2022, a prior version of this article was published.
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