Over the last few years I’ve followed the ongoing adventures of Flores hobbits – the meter-high humans who lived in a remote island cave some 100,000 to 17,000 years ago.
I’m sorry I missed hobbits in the flesh, but I’m also grateful to live in a time when their bones and stones are being unearthed, and when we can decipher so much about them.
And how great is it that so much of what hobbits have to say brings The Lord of the Rings to life? Flesh-and-blood hobbits were short, stout folk with big eyes and big feet, holed up in Middle Earth, fending off (Komodo) dragons and feasting on dwarf elephants that would have yielded second breakfasts, no doubt
Now enter modern-day wizards – a crack team of archaeologists, geologists and assorted experts pushing the envelopes on dating techniques, on the analysis of lithics and microbotanicals, and on the measurement of tiny bones that serve as bouncers to Club Modern Human. Hobbits didn’t make that cut, leading some to suspect that over a million years ago, proto-hobbits ventured off from African stock, and unlike Bilbo Baggins, never circled There and Back Again. They are the horseshoe crabs of the hominid tree – unstuck in time, relics of something akin to Tolkien’s “First Age”.
In the words of Christoph Zollikofer, expert on the 1.8 million-year-old Dmanisi fossils (the earliest known hominids outside of Africa, with a family resemblance to hobbits), “The hobbit shows us that science is not about answering questions, but about questioning answers. And the hobbit questions all supposed answers we have in paleoanthropology.”
Because that’s cool, I will be carving out some of this blogspace for hobbit news and views. First up…
My Flores Hobbit Archive – favorite shots now captioned, keyworded, and ready for high-res download. Editorial licensing of these images supports ongoing hobbitography and allows me to grant free academic use.
Some of my hobbitography has made it to print…
But most has not. Hobbits get a lot of press, but 9 times out of 10, editors fall back on a wire service shot of the hobbit skull. After that, hobbit fans might get to see the discovery cave from the only spot where it fits in one frame. Folks rarely get to lay eyes on studio-quality shots of bones and stone tools, on personal shots of researchers at work, on multi-flash shots of the inky depths where hobbits are dug. So… go have a look!
Every few months, news breaks on a fresh hobbit analysis. Beneath each of these stories run deep backstories – how data is recovered by digging, sifting and analyzing 200 cubic meters of sediment each field season, how new strategies help researchers deliver the longest Southeast Asian archaeological record to date, and how each new puzzle piece adds to the picture of Flores as a strange Middle Earth. I hope these images will inspire more tellings of such outlandish tales.
- Favorite hobbit book: A New Human
Mike Morwood and Penny van Oosterzee
(I provided some photos.)
- Favorite hobbit film: Alien from Earth
Real Pictures, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, WGBH/NOVA
(I provided stills and assisted with interviews at Liang Bua cave.)
- Favorite hobbit story: How I Joined the Fellowship of Hobbits
(I’m a fan.)
I Love Hobbits, © Djuna Ivereigh, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Excerpts may be reproduced with a credit to DjunaPix Indonesia Photography, linked to http://blog.djunapix.com/2010/05/wild/i-love-hobbits/.