Some folklorists and anthropologists have theorized that the original faeries were members of conquered races that were sighted on rare occasions, mistaken for supernatural beings.
One common theme found among the Celtic nations describes a race of diminutive people who had been driven into hiding by invading humans.
According to this theory, the Thuatha de Danaan in Ireland lived in shelters burrowed under mounds and hills. As more aggressive races migrated into their territories, these secretive little people retreated into the forests.
However, some possibly maintained a guerilla warfare against the newcomers, giving rise to the legends of Rob Roy and Robin Hood.
The survival in all Celtic countries of prehistoric monuments, apparently built by people of smaller stature that occupied part of Europe in the Bronze Age and Neolithic periods, would support this perception.
A similar theory trace the origin of the Germanic dwarfs as being a people subdued between the fifth and tenth centuries by a nation of greater power and size. The vanquished fled to the mountains, and concealed themselves in caverns, only occasionally venturing to appear.
In Victorian beliefs of evolution, cannibalism among “ogres” was attributed to memories of more savage races, still practicing it alongside “superior” races that had abandoned it.
Selkies, described in fairy tales as shapeshifting seal people, were attributed to memories of skin-clad “primitive” people traveling in kayaks.
African pygmies were put forth as an example of a race that had previously existed over larger stretches of territory, but come to be scarce and semi-mythical with the passage of time and prominence of other tribes and races.
The bones of Homo floresiensis, said to be a species of dwarf human, were discovered at the Liang Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. Homo floresiensis was about 1 meter ( 3 feet) in height and walked upright.
The skull has human-like teeth with a receding forehead and no chin. Archaeological evidence suggests this species lived at Liang Bua between at least 95,000 and 13,000 years ago. They used stone tools, and hunted small mammals .
The discoverers believe that floresiensis is a dwarf form of Homo erectus based on the evidence that it is not unknown for dwarf forms of large mammals to evolve on islands. In light of this discovery, Indonesian folk tales of “little people” are being re-evaluated and questions are being asked if these abnormally small people have been living with us all along.
In 1932, a 14-inch tall mummy was found by gold prospectors in the Pedro Mountains 60 miles southwest of Casper, Wyoming (USA). The tiny mummy was found sitting on a ledge in a small granite cave. Its legs were crossed and arms folded on its lap.
It had a flat nose, low forehead, and a broad, thin-lipped mouth. The mummy was x-rayed and analysed. The Anthropology Department of Harvard University certified the mummy as genuine and believed by some to be of a 65-year old man.
A more skeptical Dr. George Gill speculated that the mummy could have been an infant afflicted with anencephaly, a congenital abnormality which causes tiny adult proportions. Since its discovery, the mummy changed hands several times and, unfortunately, disappeared.
It is interesting to note that Shoshone and Crow natives that inhabited the area where the mummy was found had legends of “little people” in their ancient folklore.
Perhaps the most spectacular and baffling find was in the later 1800s. Hundreds of tiny flint tools were found in the Pennine hills of east Lancashire, all of which were no larger than half an inch long.
The tiny tools included scrapers, borers, and crescent shaped knives. Other tiny tools similar to the ones found in Lancashire have been found worldwide including Devon and Suffolk, England, Egypt, Africa, Australia, France, Italy, and India.