Flores has a fascinating history of human habitation, from the Larantuqueiros and Toppasses people who intermingled with colonial settlers to the newly discovered species of Homo Floresiensis.
The Manggarai and Nage indigenous people were the original inhabitants of Flores, sparsely populating the island in settlements which have become the modern day towns of Larantuka and Sikka.
During the 16th century, there was an influx of Portuguese traders and missionaries to Flores and the Lesser Sunda Islands, which had a significant impact on the language and culture of the indigenous population.
The Catholic Dominican Order was especially strong on Flores, and even today the island remains almost entirely Roman Catholic, making up one of the “religious borders” of Indonesia.
Many Portuguese settlers, especially traders, took native wives which led to the significant growth of the Larantuqueiros or Topasses (literally “people who wear hats”) population of the island of mixed Portuguese and indigenous decent.
These groups were part of a wider group of the Indo people of mixed Indonesian and European descent who were prominent as traders and businesspeople across Indonesia throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
Flores also holds another secret population which has only recently been unearthed: the Homo floresiensis.
Homo floresiensis remains were discovered unexpectedly by a group of anthropologists excavating a site on the island in 2004.
This unique species of human ancestor has been identified by their extremely small stature – they are thought to have been less than one metre tall, weighing about 25kg, approximately the same size as a modern three-year old child.
These diminutive characteristics quickly earned them the nickname of “hobbits”; so far, nine Homo floresiensis skeletons from approximately 38,000 to 13,000 years ago have been found.
Evidence uncovered near the skeletons, and dating of the remains suggests that they would have shared the island with dwarf elephants, giant rats, and Komodo dragons.