The face of a real-life “Hobbit” can be seen for the fist time since the Stone Age after scientists were able to reconstruct their likeness.
Homo floresiensis – an extinct species of human nicknamed the “Hobbit” – was discovered in 2003, when its skeleton was found in a cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia.
Now, equipped with a digital model of the skull, a multinational team has rebuilt the skeleton’s face using data drawn from both modern humans and chimpanzees.
Brazilian graphics expert Cicero Moraes, who co-authored the new study, described some of the differences between the species and humans today.
He said: “Roughly speaking, they probably had a less protruding nose than modern men, the mouth region was a little more projected than ours, and the brain volume was significantly smaller.”
They were also much shorter.
Mr Moraes said: “When the skull was presented to the public in 2004, the Lord of the Rings movie was a great success.
“Due to the height of Homo floresiensis being estimated at 1.06 meters, the ‘Hobbit’ nickname matched perfectly.”
When rebuilding a human face from a skull, scientists typically use data from living people to guide how thick the tissue should be in a given place.
But reconstructing the face of an extinct human species meant a new approach was required.
Cicero said: “In this work, we did not use this approach, as such markers are based on human data and not on individuals belonging to the Homo floresiensis group.
“So what we did was: we took two CT scans, one from a human, the other from a chimpanzee.
“Then we deformed both to adapt them to the structure of the skull of Homo floresiensis, and interpolated the data to get an idea of what his face could look like.”
It’s the first time that the face of the “Hobbit” has been rebuilt using data from both humans and chimpanzees.
A previous reconstruction from 2015 used only the latter.
The result is a face that’s more human in its aspect.
Mr Moraes said: “It was more work, however, we were also greatly pleased to proceed with this challenging work.
“The result was quite satisfactory, since it revealed a face endowed with elements that remind us of both modern men and our evolutionary ancestors.”
Upon discovery, Homo floresiensis was thought to be under 20,000 years old, however the skeleton is now believed to be 60,000 years old.
Cicero and his colleagues, Italian archaeologists Luca and Alessandro Bezzi, will publish their study in the 3D computer graphics journal OrtogOnLineMag.