Ever since finding the remains of the “hobbits” — a small-statured species of ancient human — on the island of Flores in Indonesia, scientists have wondered whether the modern Pygmy people who now call the island home were in any way related to them.
Now, researchers have found that the answer is “no,” the modern-day Pygmies on Flores are not related to the ancient hobbits, who go by the scientific name Homo floresiensis.
While the genomes of modern Pygmy people on Flores have DNA sequences from other ancient human relatives — the Denisovans and the Neanderthals — they have “no evidence for gene flow with other archaic hominins,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Scientists initially discovered the remains of H. floresiensis in 2003 in the Liang Bua cave on Flores, according to a 2004 study in the journal Nature. The modern-day Pygmy people live just a stone’s throw away, and consider the cave a sacred place, said study lead researcher Serena Tucci, a postdoctoral fellow of evolutionary biology at Princeton University.
“The cave is a really important part of their life,” Tucci told Live Science. “They believe the spirits of their ancestors live in the cave. It’s not uncommon to findofferings of food in the cave. It’s part of their culture.”