"Evolving under isolation on an island under hundreds of thousands of years in isolation, the outcome may have resulted in a distinct human species, different from ." Excavations conducted between 20 in southeastern Sulawesi revealed four sites containing stone flakes — sharp artifacts likely used for cutting or scraping — dating back 118,000 to 194,000 years.These are the earliest signs of hominins seen on Sulawesi yet, the researchers said.

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This finding could one day help shed light on the evolution of the hobbit, the researchers noted in the study.

In 2003, scientists unearthed 18,000-year-old fossils on the Indonesian island of Flores.

The fossils belonged to an unknown hominin, a close relative of modern humans.

Since then, scientists have suggested that this hominin, which had a brain about the size of a grapefruit, was a unique branch of the human lineage named ] Since the hobbit's discovery, researchers have sought to uncover its evolutionary origins.

In 2010, scientists revealed that stone tools found on Flores suggest that the hobbit's ancestors lived there 1 million years ago.

As such, these potential direct ancestors of hobbits may have descended from To find out more about how the hobbit's ancestors might have migrated to Flores, scientists have searched for clues on other Indonesian islands.

They focused on the island of Sulawesi, which lies between Flores and continental Asia.

Sulawesi is the largest and oldest island in Wallacea, a group of islands separating Asia from Australia.

Given Sulawesi's position north of Flores and Australia, Sulawesi likely played a key role in the settling of both islands, the researchers said.