3D reconstruction reveals what the 'Hobbit' looked like 18,000 years ago

Unveiling our 'hobbit-like' ancestor, the cutting-edge technique, previously used for a 30,000-year-old Egyptian man, astounds once again.
Mrigakshi Dixit
The final facial reconstruction of Hobbit.
The final facial reconstruction of Hobbit.

Cicero Moraes 

Cutting-edge facial reconstruction techniques offer us a captivating window into the appearance of our ancient human ancestors. Remember the team of scientists who brought an Egyptian man from 30,000 years ago back to life? Led by Brazilian 3D artist Cícero Moraes, that very team has now employed their method to unveil a remarkably lifelike face of an extinct human ancestor from Indonesia, dating back 18,000 years.

The new face reconstruction shows what this ancient person, nicknamed "the hobbit," would have looked like. 

As per the study, archaeologists discovered the skeletal remains of this man in the Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. 

The examination of the remains indicated that this individual possessed hobbit-like characteristics. It had a small skull and was just 3 feet 6 inches (106 centimeters) tall. 

Closer investigation revealed that the individual's characteristics varied from those of other known hominins. As a result, they identified the person as Homo floresiensis, a type of small archaic human that lived in Flores.

The art of recreating the hobbit's face

According to Live Science, the experts depend on scans of the individual skull remains as well as of other human skulls of this same species to make the face estimates. This process of blending is known as the "positioning of soft tissue thickness markers." 

Additionally, it “involves placing a series of small pins that correspond to the topography of the skin on the skull,” added the report. 

But there was one problem: the skull bones of H. floresiensis were discovered to be very few, and so there were fewer comparable skulls to blend the reconstruction. 

The team overcame this obstacle by using scans of a well-preserved hobbit skull, a male Homo sapiens skull, and a chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) skull. They then used computed tomography (CT) scans to build a composite of these skull scans to produce the final result. 

“We deformed to adapt them to the structure of the skull of H. floresiensis and interpolated the data to get an idea of what [the hobbit's] face could look like," study co-researcher Moraes, told Live Science

Moraes further added: "The [hobbit] skull is almost complete, missing small parts in the region of the glabella (the part of the forehead directly between the eyebrows) and nasal bone, but fortunately it was possible to design them with the help of anatomical deformation." 

Finally, a life-like facial approximation was created that represented this individual. The first is a black-and-white image depicting an ape-like individual with a broad nose, while the second is more artistic with face and head hair.