1176th Ordinary General Meeting

"The real significance of hobbits: hominid biogeography in South East Asia"

Professor Michael J. Morwood, Professor in Archaeology, School of Earth and Environmental Studies, University of Wollongong

Wednesday 4 November 2009 at 7 pm

Conference Room 1, Darlington Centre, University of Sydney

In 2004 Professor Mike Morwood led the team that found the skeleton of a previously undiscovered human species on the island of Flores. The 'hobbit' skeleton was of a much smaller stature than present-day humans, being that of an adult who was only one metre in height. Evidence suggests that these 'hobbits' may have lived from 95,000 to 13,000 years ago and were probably descendants of the Homo erectus population that had evolved in isolation on Flores. It is believed that the 'hobbit' may have still been in existence when the 16th century Dutch traders arrived at the island. This discovery has raised questions about the nature of human of evolution.

The discovery of an endemic species of human on Flores was unexpected, but no more so than finding evidence of Homins on the islands from 880,000 years ago. This lecture will explain why the 2004 discovery was not wholly unexpected with reference to the faunal biogeography of South East Asia. It will conclude with some of the implications for early hominin and modern human dispersal mechanisms, and for the future archaeological research in the region.

The speaker's presentation can be found here: Mike Morwood's Talk (5 MB PDF).

Professor Michael Morwood has carried out extensive research in New Zealand and throughout Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, both as an academic researcher and as a public archaeologist. He is particularly interested in ethnohistory, material culture studies and the social-ceremonial role of art in Aboriginal Culture.

In 2007, Professor Morwood and Penny Van Oosterzee won the John Mulvaney Book Award for the publication of "The Discovery of the Hobbit: The Scientific Breakthrough that Changed the Face of Human History" documenting his work on the Indonesian island of Flores. In addition to his work in Indonesia, he is an expert in Australian Aboriginal rock art and the author of "Visions from the Past: The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art".

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