Sad passing of the archaeologist who discovered the Hobbit

23 July 2013
Australian Archaeological Association
For immediate release

One of Australia’s leading archaeologists, Professor Mike Morwood, sadly passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer.

Professor Morwood was internationally renowned as the man who discovered “the “Hobbit”, working together with Indonesian colleagues in the Liang Bua Cave on the island of Flores.

Professor Morwood was also a pioneer in the study of Australian rock art. He was a former president of the Australian Rock Art Research Association and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

New-Zealand born Morwood completed his PhD at the Australian National University on the rock art and archaeology of Queensland in 1980, and was appointed a lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at the University of New England in 1981.

It was while at UNE that he put together a genuinely collaborative team of Indonesian and Australian researchers to investigate another human species, Homo erectus.

Instead, Morwood and his team’s discovery of the diminutive Homo floresiensis, popularly known as “the Hobbit”, set the imagination of the world alight and led to a radical reassessment of the role of Asia in human evolution. There had been nothing like it since the discovery of Neanderthals in the 19th century.

In 2007 he took up a professorial position in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong. When he passed away, he was on his way to Indonesia for another season of fieldwork.

The President of the Australian Archaeological Association, Dr Patrick Faulkner, noted Professor Morwood’s significant, long-term contribution to archaeological research in Australia and Southeast Asia.

“In 2012, Professor Morwood was awarded the Association’s highest honour, the Rhys Jones Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Archaeology” Dr Faulkner said. “We send our condolences to Professor Morwood’s family and friends on behalf of the Association at this difficult time”.

For more information, contact  Kat Szabo, email  or phone 0423 226 837, or AAA media liaison officer Dr Alice Gorman (0428 450 418).