HISTORY & ARCHAEOLOGY >
I s the fine line between mythology and science getting closer to each other? The discovery of a tiny human species is said to have done just that.
The fossil remains in question belong to an ancient new humanoid species discovered in 2007. Not any species though. One never seen before and belonging to a small humanoid found in a cave on Luzen Island in the Philippines.
The discovery had evolution theorists uncomfortably shifting in their seats for days. The new species was named Homo Luzunensis; with the fossil remains believed to be around 50,000 years old.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
Humans are known to be descendants to Homo erectus. They lived from 1.89 million years until a very ‘recent’ 143,000 years ago. Homo erectus originated mostly from Southern Africa and Western Asia.
HUMAN FOSSILS FIRST UNCOVERED
Eugene Dubois discovered the first fossil remains in 1891. More similar discoveries followed this. Amongst others was the ‘Peking’ man in 1923 in China and the so-called ‘Java’ man in 1963 (China). Related specimens were discovered in African countries- Kenya and Ethiopia.
What makes the discovery of Homo Luzenensis different?
The bone samples found indicated that Homo Luzenensis belonged to a small humanoid species. Even smaller than Homo floresiensis (Flores Man) of 1.1 m, also nicknamed ‘Hobbit,’ discovered by Mike Morwood in 2004 in Indonesia.
Then in 2010, this latest discovery made the headlines. Scientists Florent Detroit from the Natural History Museum in France, and a Philippino archaeologist named Armand Mijares, found a human foot bone in the Callao Cave, during 2007.
Later, more fossil bones belonging to two adults and child were found. To their disappointment, the bones did not include a skull, which would have made the discovery even more groundbreaking.
Amongst the bones found during extensive excavation were foot bones, teeth, a thigh- and hand bones.
The unearthing of Homo Luzenensis makes the story of human evolution as fascinating as it can be possibly get, as it tells us of a dramatic variation from the pioneering species that left Africa thousands of years ago. (They were called ‘hominines,’ a species more closely related to us than that of, for example, chimps.)
Scientist discovered that Homo Luzenensis lived in the Philippines some 67,000 to 50,000 years ago. The size of the bones indicates insular dwarfism. In the evolution ladder, it is a process where species grow smaller because of reduced or limited resources in its habitat, such as being stranded on an island.
Scientists also believe that the species are related to a human ancestor called Australopithecus which were thought to reside in Africa about 3 million years back.
Prof. Gerrit van den Bergh explained that island living might have had a significant influence on the size and development of mammals. He referred to so-called pigmy elephants that have existed on islands such as Cyprus. The small landmass had a profound influence on the size of mammals and resulted in the excavation of fossils of miniature elephants and hippopotami.
Studies conducted by Florent Détroit et al. (2019), found the fossils uncovered in Callao Cave to be related to a distinct species of archaic humans.
Exact height estimates of Homo Luzenensis is not currently available due to the relatively small number of fossils.
The discovery of Homo Luzenensis places our evolution theory in quite the predicament, as it seems J.R.R. Tolkien’s hobbits are not stranger than fiction, but a reality. What other humanoid species will be soon discovered?