Kiwi human species discoverer dies

05:30, Jul 24 2013
Mike Morwood
EXPLORER: Archaeologist Mike Morwood discovered a species of human that lived in Indonesia 12,000 years ago.

Kiwi archaeologist Mike Morwood, who became world famous for his discovery of "hobbits", has died in Australia after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 62.

Morwood, who worked at the University of Wollongong, was part of a team that discovered a small skull in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores.

The skull belonged to a creature dubbed the "hobbit" - nicknamed after the pint-sized characters from JRR Tolkien's novel of the same name.

Formally called Homo floresiensis, the species of one-metre-tall early humans likely vanished from Flores, and history, about 12,000 years ago.

According to researchers, who have recreated the visage of the vanished the species, they looked remarkably human.

Morwood completed his MA in archaeology at the University of Auckland in 1973 before departing for Australia where he had a long and distinguished career as an archaeologist, topped off by his famous discovery.


Associate Professor Brent Alloway of Victoria University in Wellington, who worked with Morwood in Flores, today paid trubute.

"Mike Morwood was a truely modest and inspirational man of genuine humility and mana," he said.

"This discovery of a new human species on the island of Flores has subsequently contributed so much to our collective knowledge of our evolutionary past, changed the very essence of how we see ourselves, and our wider relationship to the environment.

"Mike will be sadly missed, but his legacy will continue long into the future."

A long-time colleague in Wollongong, Professor Bert Robertsm, said Morwoods discovery was "the adventure of a lifetime for Mike".

"The fact that he actually could discover a brand new species of human, I mean, how many archaeologists and anthropologists can ever do that?''