Homo floresiensis, meaning "Man of Flores" or "Flores Man," is an extinct species of the genus Homo, a group composed of humans and our close relatives. Homo floresiensis is especially interesting for several reasons. Nicknamed "Hobbit," Homo floresiensis was on average just a meter (3.3 ft) tall, substantially shorter than the average of any human ethnic group, and weighed just 25 kg (55 lb). The description of the species is based on a single complete skeleton discovered in 2004 on the island of Flores in Indonesia, LB1, and fragmentary remains of eight other individuals. It was discovered by researchers looking for signs of early human migration to Australia.
Besides its extremely small size, Homo floresiensis is well-known for being the most recent human relative to go extinct — it lived from about 93,000 to just 12,000 years ago. This is 12,000 years more recent than the death of the last Neanderthals, which happened c. 24,000 years ago. Homo floresiensis may have even survived into modern times, as evidenced by local tribal stories that reference dwarf people, and there is even a small chance they are still alive today. Homo floresiensis may be a rare example of a cryptid (mysterious beast) being proven to actually exist.
Because the initial Homo floresiensis skeleton was so amazingly small for a human relative, there was initial suspicion that it was a hoax or a person suffering from microcephaly, a medical condition that produces a small head and brain. However, subsequent follow-ups, including by the Smithsonian Institution, found the skeleton was not a human suffering from microcephaly, and possesses a distinct wrist-structure to be expected from a proto-human, and would not be reflected in any type of diseased human. However, although the consensus is in favor of Homo floresiensis being an actual proto-human, some researchers have argued that the morphology of Homo floresiensis is essentially indistinguishable from people suffering from a genetic disorder, Laron syndrome.
Excavation of Homo floresiensis campsites reveals a technologically sophisticated (for the Stone Age) society comparable in tool use to early societies of modern humans. The discoverers of the first skeleton took the controversial step of arguing that Homo floresiensis was capable of language, based on its technological accomplishments. As Flores was separated from the southeast Asian mainland by a channel of water, this species would have at least needed the ability to build rafts to make it across, although it is possible it could be have brought to Flores by humans.
The artifacts of Homo floresiensis at the initial excavation site disappear 12,000 years ago, when there was a major volcanic eruption on the island that is known to have wiped out the dwarf elephant Stegodon and other local fauna.