It's been nearly 20 years since the bones of a Hobbit-like humanoid species were found on the Indonesian island of Flores — and according to one researcher, there may be more than ancient bones.
In an essay for The Scientist magazine, retired ethnobiologist Gregory Forth describes why he believes Homo floresiensis, as they were called by the famous late anthropologist Mike Morwood when he found the Pleistocene-era bones on Flores in 2004, may still be alive and well in the forests of the island.
Morwood's discovery of H. floresiensis rocked the scientific world when he first reported his findings. In Forth's words, it was "tantamount to the discovery of a space alien." This humanoid species, dubbed "the Hobbit" by pop culture, was presumed to be extinct — but as Forth details in his forthcoming book "Between Ape and Human," a local tribe called the Lio have described encounters with a diminutive creature which he believes may be one and the same as H. floresiensis.
"My aim in writing the book was to find the best explanation — that is, the most rational and empirically best supported — of Lio accounts of the creatures," Forth wrote. "These include reports of sightings by more than 30 eyewitnesses, all of whom I spoke with directly. And I conclude that the best way to explain what they told me is that a non-sapiens hominin has survived on Flores to the present or very recent times."
The enthnobiologist describes how in Lio mythology, humans can transform into other species as part of "moving into new environments and adopting new ways of life" — a myth, according to his description of his fieldwork, which could suggest a connection between humans and their H. floresiensis ancestors.
Though he leaves the physiological details of this purportedly uncontacted humanoid species to be read in his book, Forth does note that the Lio people find "the ape-man’s appearance as something incompletely human" which, by his estimation, is "problematic and disturbing" to this indigenous group.
He also stumbles onto an indictment of anthropology as a whole, which many critics have rightfully called out for its imperialist history of racist harm.
"Paleontologists and other life scientists would do well to incorporate such Indigenous knowledge into continuing investigations of hominin evolution in Indonesia and elsewhere," Forth wrote in The Scientist.
The researcher may not yet have a smoking gun, but his assessment of his field is spot on.
READ MORE: Opinion: Another Species of Hominin May Still Be Alive [The Scientist]