“You want to see a living hobbit?” a guard at the cave whispered. “I can take you there but it will cost 500,000 rupiah ($55).”
Kornelis Jaman was referring to the dwarf cave-dwellers, whose skeletal remains were discovered in the cave. Scientists believe they went extinct 17,000 years ago, but villagers with an eye for profit insist the hobbits hung around until at least 300 years ago and their descendants are still living in nearby villages.
The “Ebu Gogo” or “the grandmother who eats everything,” has for generations played the role of villain in Flores folklore. They are described as big-eyed, hairy creatures who came down the mountain to steal, crops, fruit and liquor.
The discovery of the remains in the Liang Bua cave in 2003 put the Flores excavation on the map. Suddenly, a steady stream of fossil enthusiasts was turning up, and hobbit tours began.