Story behind the Hobbit
By HELEN JACK
CONSTRAINED excitement is how Dr Carol Lentfer described the atmosphere when archaeologists discovered the remains of a previously unknown human species nicknamed the Hobbit.
"I feel privileged to be invited to work on the project and to have this happen out of the blue," said Dr Lentfer, environmental archaeologist at Southern Cross University.
"It was really exciting, so exciting."
Dr Lentfer said she was not present when archaeologists discovered the first set of remains in Liang Bua, a limestone cave on Flores, during September 2003.
But she was present when further remains were found earlier this year.
"When I was there it was exciting, but constrained until we actually confirmed what it was," Dr Lentfer said.
Also found were hundreds of stone tools believed to have been used by the Hobbits and sediment samples from the cave which Dr Lentfer has brought back with her.
Dr Lentfer said she will now spend the next three years analysing the tools and sediment samples to find out what sort of environment the Hobbits, or Homo floresiensis, lived in, if they made the tools and what they used them for.
"We were looking for the earliest evidence of modern humans, but as it happens this new species turned up out of the blue," she said.
"We have the tools that were directly associated with the bones, including choppers, grinders, blades and a series of stone flakes and points.
"I will be analysing plant and animal residues found on the stone tools, as well as wear patterns and polishes on the tools.
"It is likely they were made and used by the same people who first occupied the cave about 100,000 years ago.
"But it is early days and DNA analysis of residues on the tools might be able to tell us if the Hobbits co-existed with Homo sapiens.
"It might turn out that modern humans were killing the Hobbits."
Dr Lentfer is regarded as a top phytolith researcher in the world and is now an adjunct fellow at SCU.