Scientists have discovered a new and tiny species of human that lived in Indonesia at the same time our own ancestors were colonising the world.
The one-metre- (3ft) tall species - dubbed the "Hobbit" - lived on Flores Island until at least 12,000 years ago.
Dr Henry Gee, Nature
Australian archaeologists unearthed the bones while digging at a site called Liang Bua, one of numerous limestone caves on Flores.
The remains of the partial skeleton were found at a depth of 5.9m (19ft). At first, the researchers thought it was the body of a child. But further investigation revealed otherwise.
Wear on the teeth and growth lines on the skull confirm it was an adult. Features of the pelvis identify it as female and a leg bone confirms that it walked upright like we do.
"When we got the dates back from the skeleton and we found out how young it was, one anthropologist working with us said it must be wrong because it had so many archaic [primitive] traits," said co-discoverer Mike Morwood, associate professor of archaeology at the University of New England, Australia.
The 18,000-year-old specimen, known as Liang Bua 1 or LB1, has been assigned to a new species called Homo floresiensis. It had long arms and a skull the size of a large grapefruit.
The researchers have since found remains belonging to six other individuals from the same species.
LB1 shared its island with a golden retriever-sized rat, giant tortoises and huge lizards - including Komodo dragons - and a pony-sized dwarf elephant called Stegodon which the Hobbits probably hunted.
H. floresiensis probably evolved from another species called Homo erectus, whose remains have been discovered on the Indonesian island of Java.
Homo erectus may have arrived on Flores about one million years ago, evolving its tiny physique in the isolation provided by the island.
What is surprising about this is that this species must have made it to Flores by boat. Yet building craft for travel on open water is traditionally thought to have been beyond the intellectual abilities of Homo erectus.
Even more intriguing is the fact that Flores' inhabitants have incredibly detailed legends about the existence of little people on the island they call Ebu Gogo.
The islanders describe Ebu Gogo as being about one metre tall, hairy and prone to "murmuring" to each other in some form of language. They were also able to repeat what islanders said to them in a parrot-like fashion.
The last evidence of this human at Liang Bua dates to just before 12,000 years ago, when a volcanic eruption snuffed out much of Flores' unique wildlife.
Yet there are hints H. floresiensis could have lived on much later than this. The last legend featuring the mythical creatures dates to just 100 years ago.
But Henry Gee, senior editor at Nature magazine, goes further. He speculates that species like H.floresiensis might still exist, somewhere in the unexplored tropical forest of Indonesia.