Over 20,000 years this pedestal had been covered by "younger" sediment.

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The disappearance of "hobbits" on the Indonesian island of Flores has been pushed back to 50,000 years ago after excavations revealed flaws in the original dating of the controversial species of primitive humans.

- discovered in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003 - are between about 100,000 and 60,000 years old, and associated stone tools date between 190,000 and 50,000 years.

This overturns original dating that suggested the hobbit and its tools had disappeared as late as 12,000 years ago.

Professor Bert Roberts, of the University of Wollongong's Centre for Archaeological Science, who was part of the team that made the original discovery in 2003 co-authored the latest study.

"The pygmy stegodon [a relative of the elephant], giant marabou stork and vultures all disappear at the same time."The loss of the megafauna in Flores after the arrival of modern humans was "very reminiscent of the Australian situation" where the giant ancestors of kangaroos and wombats disappeared soon after modern humans arrived.

Professor Roberts said there was no evidence yet to suggest the "hobbits" interacted with modern humans or other human groups, such as the Denisovans."We can't point a finger at modern humans and say it was us that drove them [the hobbits] to extinction but at least it puts the disappearance of the hobbits in the same timeframe as the arrival of the modern humans," he said.

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When Some argued the first specimen to be described - an adult female about one-metre tall with an extremely small, chimpanzee-sized brain - was not a new species, but a modern human that was simply affected by diseases such as Down syndrome or iodine deficiency.

Professor Roberts said original research that put the disappearance of the "hobbit" at little as 12,000 years ago had always seemed unusual."Something that stuck out at the time which we could never get our head around was how could these little people have survived on Flores some 40,000 years after modern humans had reached Australia," he said.