Learning About the Hobbits of Flores

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-7-32-14-pm“Oh, this is absolutely bizarre,” scientist Bert Roberts exclaimed, referring to the fossil species Homo floresiensis. Bizarre is a word that sums up the floresiensis creatures (known as the hobbits) quite nicely. These primitive hominins–with their small brains, huge feet, and tiny stature–were discovered almost accidently in 2003, and they were completely unexpected. “We would have been less surprised if we found an alien spaceship on the island of Flores.”

It’s no secret that I am extremely interested in the hobbits, and I soak up all the information I can find on them. Now you can too, because the hobbits’ story is the focus of an online course titled Homo Floresiensis Uncovered: The Science of ‘the Hobbit. This course, run by the University of Wollongong, is free and online, and it takes us straight into the heart of the hobbits’ tale. The course unravels the mystery of floresiensis piece by piece, detailing a variety of scientific techniques and archaeological approaches. The best part? It’s free and you can catch up whenever you want.

LiangBua_2 (1).jpgThe course teaches about the hobbit mostly through engaging videos (that’s right–you get to learn by just watching!), short readings, and yes–occasional quizzes. The videos introduce you to many of the team members who discovered the bones, while also touring you around places such as the beautiful cave where the bones were discovered, Liang Bua. “Homo floresiensis Uncovered” addresses questions such as: who is ‘the Hobbit’ known as LB1? When did she and her kind live? What happened to her species?

The course begins on Monday, March 6th, 2017. However, once you enroll in the course you can log in and catch up at any time. The course lasts four weeks, and each week consists of about two hours of learning. I took the course back in August, and I got a late start and blew through the fascinating material in one week–it was a blast. For more on why Homo floresiensis is worth learning about, check out my posts of 5 hobbit facts and the moment the fossils were discovered.

Contemplating the significance of floresiensis, Bert Roberts remarks, “To me, the ultimate value of the hobbit is not what it is, in and of itself, because it’s just a dead end… But it opened up the door for people to think more broadly about everything. I think the hobbit changed the way people thought.” So check out Homo floresiensis Uncovered and learn how a tiny collection of bones ultimately had a big impact in the ways we think about human evolution.

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