Kate Wong notes the death of Mike Morwood, archaeologist, rock art expert, and co-discoverer of the Liang Bua people commonly known as the “hobbits”:
Morwood, who passed away on July 23 from cancer, made important contributions in research areas ranging from the rock art of Australias Kimberly region to the seafaring capabilities of Homo erectus. But he will be best remembered for a discovery he and his colleagues made on the Indonesian island of Flores: the remains of a miniature human species that shared the planet with our own ancestors not so long ago.
Science needs shake-upsfindings that break all the rules, force researchers to reconsider what they thought they knew and remind us all that there is still so much to learn. Nine years after the Liang Bua team introduced the world to H. floresiensis, scholarly papers on it continue to fill the pages of scientific journals, presentations on it still attract standing room-only crowds at anthropology conferences, and the public remains enthralled with our hobbit cousin. No doubt Morwoods discovery will continue to fire imaginations and inspire new inquiries for many more years to come.
Even without the Late Pleistocene skeletal evidence from Liang Bua, the clear demonstration that the human occupation of Flores began in the Early Pleistocene would rank as one of the truly important discoveries in paleoanthropology.