Episode Information

NOVA: Alien from Earth
Aired:
07/02/2009
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NOVA Investigates one of the Strangest and Most Controversial Ancient Human Fossils Ever Found

 


Researchers uncover fossils on the island of Flores in Indonesia

NOVA

Alien from Earth

Aired Tuesday, July 7 at 8 p.m. on CPTV

An ancient legend on the Indonesian island of Flores tells of an elflike creature similar to the fictional hobbit of novels and film. But a controversial 2003 archeological find not only suggests that there could be some truth behind the legend, but promises to rewrite a key chapter in the human evolutionary story. NOVA investigates the discovery, analysis and startling implications of the hobbit of Flores in “Alien From Earth.”

Known for its strange fauna, Flores may now have offered the world the strangest yet. The hobbit was an adult female no larger than a three-year-old child with a skull less than one-third the size of a modern human’s.

The discovery created a media sensation. But only now, five years later, are researchers beginning to make sense of this archeological oddity, dubbed Homo floresiensis. Definitive proof of its place in the human lineage awaits future finds, especially DNA evidence, but the implications of the work so far are intriguing and possibly revolutionary.

Dated at 18,000 years, the hobbit’s skull was found deep in the sediment of a cave as big as a concert hall. In earlier deposits stretching back as far as 95,000 years, the researchers found bones from a dozen other hobbits, as well as stone tools, charcoal and the butchered remains of pygmy elephants, implying that these tiny cave dwellers had hunted and used fire.

Many experts believe such sophisticated behavior is hard to reconcile with the size of the hobbit’s brain, which is smaller than a chimpanzee’s. Even more astonishing, the hobbit’s anatomy resembles that of some of our earliest extinct ancestors in Africa three million or more years ago, yet it lived relatively recently and may even have survived into historical times. Learn more...


 
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