Real 'hobbit' skeleton coming to Te Papa
Wed, 24 Oct 2012 6:32p.m.
By Emma Jolliff
A real hobbit is coming to New Zealand, and we're not talking about Peter Jackson’s movie extravaganza.
This hobbit is known as such within the scientific world, but the people bringing it here aren't even supposed to use the 'H' word.
It's a representative of a type of human-like creature, whose skeletons were discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores.
In Tolkien's world the word 'hobbit' is thought to mean 'hole-builder'. This species of human, Homo floresiensis, is also known as a hobbit.
Like Tolkien's hobbits they were just over 1m tall, or equal to three feet, six inches.
Associate professor Brent Alloway from Victoria University says their characteristics are not unlike the fictional hobbit.
“Short, hairy, limited speech ability people who had very long arms and a very awkward walking gait, this was widely reported in oral tradition.”
They had skeletal features, he says, that are very different from modern humans.
Mr Alloway's the only New Zealander on a team bringing a resin skeleton of a hobbit and its tools to Te Papa in December to coincide with the opening of The Hobbit.
But it can't be called a hobbit here, under threat of legal action from the estate of author Tolkein. Instead, it'll be referred to as a species of "little people" - little people who hunted little animals.
“The animal, stegadon, this elephant they were hunting is also miniaturised and it's a relic of being isolated on an island for such a long time,” Mr Alloway says.
He says they may have existed as recently as the 16th century. The discovery in 2003 has inspired more questions than answers.
“This is a species of human that didn't have a boat and it's probable arrival to these islands was quite accidental, but we don't know where it's come from,” Mr Alloway says.
Scientists also don’t know why it disappeared. But it's a safe bet it had nothing to do with a ring.
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