If it's the same size as a Hobbit and vaguely resembles one, is it safe to call the thing a Hobbit? No. Hobbits aren't real.
Nonetheless, that's what researchers from the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, are calling their computerized reconstruction of a 30-year-old protohuman female who lived some 18,000 years ago. Known officially as Homo floresiensis, the three-and-a-half-foot-tall offshoot of Homo erectus is tiny in the Tolkien sense of the word, and likely weighed in somewhere between 66 and 77 pounds.
Anthropologist Dr. Susan Hayes rebuilt the specimen's face using 3D imaging scans of her skull, layering the different facial components (muscle, cartilage, skin) piece by piece.
The result is the newly-christened "Hobbit" seen above, which possessed a brain roughly one-third the size of a modern human's, and whose new nickname probably had nothing to do with the release of a certain December blockbuster due out Thursday. Previously, the big question hovering over H. floresiensis' curious existence was whether it was a "diseased offshoot of a different species," says Rebecca Pahle at The Mary Sue, or a new class all its own.
This study adds to the growing consensus that, yes, H. floresiensis was likely its own species — even if it didn't cross swords with scary orcs and cave trolls.