Small Hominids

In this category are humanlike, hairy creatures that are described as less than 5 feet tall. unlike the folkloric LITTLE PEOPLE, who are said to shape-shift and have magical powers, Small ho-minids seem to have a basis in physical reality. Their bipedal gait, appearance, and behavior indicate a closer association to humans (HO-MINIDS) than to apes or monkeys (PRIMATES).

The most likely fossil candidates are the aus-tralopiths, small-statured hominids that evolved from chimpanzee-like apes in African tree-savanna habitats in the Late Miocene, 8-5 million years ago. More than 2,000 individual fossils are known. Five species of "gracile" ho-minids are known in the genus Australopithecus: A. anamensis (Kenya, 4.2-3.9 million years ago), A. afarensis (Ethiopia and Tanzania, 3.9-2.7 million years ago), A. bahrelghazali (Chad, 3.5-3.0 million years ago), A. africanus (South Africa, 3.0-2.3 million years ago), and A. garhi (Ethiopia, 2.5 million years ago). An additional undescribed species (3.3 million years old) was discovered in 1999 in South Africa. The number of species may well be underestimated. Some taxonomists place A. afarensis in the genus Homo.

Three other "robust" species of australopith are sometimes placed in the genus Paranthropus: P. robustus (South Africa, 1.8-1.5 million years ago), P. boisei (Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia, 2.3-1.4 million years ago), and P. aethiopicus (Ethiopia and Kenya, 2.8-2.2 million years ago). The distinction between gracile and robust genera is now seen as unwarranted, since body size is largely speculative. Robustness originally referred to the heavy structure of the skulls.

Australopiths had apelike skulls, hominid teeth, pronounced cheekbones, and projecting jaws. The molars were heavy, with thick enamel. A. afarensis males probably stood about 4 feet 6 inches tall and weighed over 100 pounds; females stood about 3 feet 6 inches and weighed about 60 pounds. The arms were proportionately longer than in humans but shorter than in apes. The chest tapered sharply upward. Cranial capacity averaged 400-410 milliliters. Australopiths had an upright, bipedal gait but apparently also climbed and slept in trees. They were vegetarians, based on their molar size, and probably ate leaves, fruit, tubers, seeds, and insects. Although no stone tools made by australopiths have been found, some researchers think they were capable of fashioning tools from wood, plant fiber, and animal skins.

The best-known specimen of A. afarensis is known as Lucy. She was found in 1974 at Oldu-vai Gorge, Tanzania, and is considered by some anthropologists, notably Donald Johanson, to be ancestral to modern humans.

Other early hominids, such as Homo erectus, H. ergaster, Neanderthals (H. neanderthalensis), and archaic H. sapiens, seemed to average at least 5 feet tall and are out of range for Small ho-minid status.

Africa certainly has the widest variety of reports on Small hominids, lending credence to the theory of surviving australopiths. Isolated island habitats often produce populations of smaller size, thus making sightings from Sri Lanka (Nittaewo), Sumatra (Orang Pendek), and Borneo (BATÛTÛT) of particular interest.

Mystery Small Hominids

Africa

ABONESI; Agogwe; AZIZA; Doko; EngbÉ; Fat-ing'ho; Kakundakari; Kènkob; Mala-GilagÉ; Mau; Mohin-GouÉ; Ntonou; Proto-Pigmy; Pygmy (Classical); Sansan-DRYI; SÉHITÉ; Semé; TÉMU; Wa-Mbilikimo; Watu Wa Miti

Asia, Central

Kynoképhalos; Nittaewo; Teh-Lma

Asia, Southeast

Batutut; Orang Pendek; Uyan

Central and South America GOAZI; Xipe

North America

Ohio Pygmy; Tennessee Pygmy; Wyoming Mummy

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