This diminutive race of “beast-men” were described by Pliny the Elder in the first century AD as a tribe living in modern Sri Lanka, side by side with a people known as the Veddahs.
The Nittaewo were supposed to be extinct by the time British explorer Huge Nevill visited the area in 1887. He reportedly learned from a family of Veddah lineage that the Nittaewo were exterminated four generations earlier, around 1775, and that a relative of the family had actually taken part in burning their last homes. In the 1940s, British primatologist W.C. Osman Hill concluded, based on descriptions and some rather flimsy evidence, that the Nittaewo must be Homo erectus. Later, in 1963, Captain A.T. Rambukwella theorized that the Nittaewo may have been a species of Australopithecus (the famous “Hobbit” hominid) based on its reputed small size.