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Meet ‘Hobbit,’ the Extinct Human Relative

Meet ‘Hobbit,’ the Extinct Human Relative
The 3D illustration of a Hobbit’s face based on Anatomical Deformation. Meet ‘Hobbit,’ the extinct human relative. Credit: Cícero Moraes / CC BY 4.0

Back in 2003, scientists made a discovery in Indonesia. They found some ancient human-like bones in a cave. After careful examination, they concluded that the person these bones belonged to was most likely a woman.

What made her unique was her unusually small head and short height. She stood at just 3 feet and 6 inches tall (106 centimeters), as reported by Live Science.

Because her characteristics were different from those of other known ancient humans, researchers named her Homo floresiensis. They believed she was a smaller version of Homo erectus, an extinct ancestor of modern humans.

Now, there’s an exciting new development. Experts have used some clever techniques to create an approximation of what this individual, known as “the hobbit,” might have looked like.

It gives us a glimpse into the appearance of this ancient creature who lived on the island of Flores in Indonesia around 18,000 years ago.

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Comparison of ‘Hobbit skull’ with human and chimpanzee skull

Projections made from the fmo-fmo distance
Projections made from the fmo-fmo distance. Credit: Cícero Moraes / CC BY 4.0

When forensic artists create facial approximations, they follow a specific process. They start by scanning the skull of the individual they are working on.

Then, they collect data points from other human skulls to help them in their work. These data points are used to determine the thickness of the soft tissue, which is crucial for accurately recreating the face.

To achieve this, the artists place small pins on the skull that match the contours of the skin. This process is called “positioning of soft tissue thickness markers.” A recent study, published online on June 6, explains how this process helps in creating a general structure of the face.

Since the specimen belongs to Homo floresiensis and not Homo sapiens (modern humans), there aren’t many skulls available for comparison.

Therefore, researchers had to take a different approach. They compared computed tomography (CT) scans of the well-preserved hobbit skull with scans of a male Homo sapiens skull and scans of a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) skull.

Possible appearance of ‘Hobbit’ based on Anatomical Deformation

Cícero Moraes, a graphics expert from Brazil and co-researcher of the study, explained that the team employed a method of deformation to adjust the scanned skulls of both the male Homo sapiens and chimpanzee to match the structure of the Homo floresiensis skull.

By doing so, they were able to estimate the possible appearance of the hobbit’s face. Moraes mentioned in an email to Live Science that the hobbit skull is nearly complete, with only small portions missing around the glabella (the area between the eyebrows) and nasal bone.

However, through anatomical deformation techniques, they were able to create accurate representations of these missing parts.

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