Research Impact


The history of humans

The unexpected news that another species of human had walked among us until relatively recently stunned the world

In October 2004, the leading international journal of science, Nature, published two controversial papers announcing the discovery in 2003 of the remains of a previously unknown human species, Homo floresiensis, in Liang Bua cave on Flores – an island in eastern Indonesia. The fossil find was dubbed the ‘Hobbit’ due to its tiny stature.

The discovery – a highlight of a partnership between the Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS) at UOW and the Indonesian National Research Centre for Archaeology – radically challenged the prevailing theories of human evolution and dispersal across the globe.

The team of researchers addressed the evolution and extinction of the “Hobbit” in the original article and in a number of high-impact publications since.

This nearly two-decade strong partnership evolved from joint research interests in the rich human history of the Indonesian isles and in the timelines of dispersal of humans within the region.

In particular, the expertise of UOW academics in luminescence dating techniques of archaeological items found on Flores was sought to date artefacts and fossils located in this emerging archaeological trove.

The connection has facilitated access to archaeological sites in the region, to local expertise and knowledge, to the luminescence dating expertise at UOW, to scholarship exchange between institutions and to shared academic outcomes, including publications and citations.

It was a crucial pillar in the successful submission for the $45.75M Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), launched in June 2017.

Headquartered at the University of Wollongong, CABAH brings together 20 institutions and museums worldwide to unlock the human and environmental history of Australia, Papua New Guinea and eastern Indonesia from 130,000 years ago until the time of European arrival. 

The Indonesian National Research Centre for Archaeology will be a key player in accomplishing CABAH’s mission throughout eastern Indonesia, as well as continuing to support the exchange of scholars and delivering outreach and community education across the region.

Partner organisations

Indonesian National Research Centre for Archaeology

UOW participants

Distinguished Prof. Richard ‘Bert’ Roberts, the late Prof. Mike Morwood, Dr Thomas Sutikna, Dr Gerrit van den Bergh, Dr Chris Turney, Dr Kira Westaway