Vale Professor Mike Morwood

Published 25 July 2013

The University of New England has acknowledged, with great sadness, the passing of the archaeologist Professor Mike Morwood.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, said Professor Morwood’s passion for researching indigenous peoples had led to a significant discovery that had changed our understanding of human evolution.

“In 2003 Professor Morwood was a leader of the team that discovered a new human species, Homo floresiensis, nicknamed ‘the Hobbit’, on the island of Flores in East Indonesia,” Professor Barber said. “The discovery of the skeleton of a tiny woman, who died about 18,000 years ago, has been hailed as one of the most important finds in human evolution since the discovery of the Neandertals in the middle of the nineteenth century. This remarkable discovery gained Professor Morwood and his team international recognition.”

During his 32-year career at UNE, Professor Morwood worked as a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor, Professor of Archaeology, and Adjunct Professor, a position he stood down from earlier this year. His long and outstanding contribution to scholarship included research in the fields of human dispersal and evolution, culture contact and change, Aboriginal rock art, and ethnoarchaeology.

Emeritus Professor Iain Davidson said Professor Morwood’s work was characterised by his single-minded pursuit of interesting research questions and by his engagement of students in that research.

“He often spoke of teaching as being principally about inspiring people with the wonder of the archaeological story,” Professor Davidson said. “By pursuing these objectives, he inspired devotion among many students, both those of the highest quality and those less gifted.  He embodied what archaeology in a university department should be about – both creating and passing on knowledge about the past.  It is typical, also, that he understood that the past, in this part of the world, is the past of indigenous peoples both in Australia and Indonesia, and his ability to work with them and with Indonesian scholars is testament to his humanity.”

“He will be sorely missed by both colleagues and students,” Professor Davidson said.