M J Morwood

University of Wollongong, City of Greater Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia

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Publications (45)493.13 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Archaeologists have long been puzzled by the appearance in Europe ∼40-35 thousand years (kyr) ago of a rich corpus of sophisticated artworks, including parietal art (that is, paintings, drawings and engravings on immobile rock surfaces) and portable art (for example, carved figurines), and the absence or scarcity of equivalent, well-dated evidence elsewhere, especially along early human migration routes in South Asia and the Far East, including Wallacea and Australia, where modern humans (Homo sapiens) were established by 50 kyr ago. Here, using uranium-series dating of coralloid speleothems directly associated with 12 human hand stencils and two figurative animal depictions from seven cave sites in the Maros karsts of Sulawesi, we show that rock art traditions on this Indonesian island are at least compatible in age with the oldest European art. The earliest dated image from Maros, with a minimum age of 39.9 kyr, is now the oldest known hand stencil in the world. In addition, a painting of a babirusa ('pig-deer') made at least 35.4 kyr ago is among the earliest dated figurative depictions worldwide, if not the earliest one. Among the implications, it can now be demonstrated that humans were producing rock art by ∼40 kyr ago at opposite ends of the Pleistocene Eurasian world.
    Nature 10/2014; 514(7521):223-7. · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Distinctive mulberry paintings found in northern Australia, particularly those of the Kimberley region, have been argued to represent some of the oldest surviving rock art on the continent. Significant research efforts continue to focus on resolving the age of these motifs, but comparatively little attention has been given to understanding their physical composition and potential source(s). In a pilot investigation, we conclude that (at least) two mineralogically distinct mulberry pigments occur in Gwion motifs and demonstrate that their major components can be indicatively chemically differentiated, non-invasively. Characterization of a ‘quarried’ mulberry ochre source demonstrates that these pigments occur locally as natural minerals.
    Archaeometry 01/2014; · 1.33 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the identification of minerals in stratified paint layers from a Wandjina motif in the central Kimberley region, Western Australia, via synchrotron powder diffraction. Interpreting our findings with reference to previous pigment characterisations of Wandjina motifs, we outline the potential of this method for rock art investigations. We particularly highlight the implications of successful major and minor phase identification in very small (~3 μg) pigment samples. The results of this pilot study show that crystallographic data is critical in helping to separate environmental/cultural signatures from post-depositional processes within anthropogenically applied pigments. In Wandjina rock art, crystallography facilitates the examination of the cultural context of rock art production within an assemblage ethnographically known to have undergone regular, ritual repainting.
    Australian Archaeology 01/2014; 78:33-38.
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    ABSTRACT: Liang Bua, a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Flores, has a depositional sequence that spans the last 95,000 years and includes well-preserved faunal remains. Birds are well represented throughout the stratigraphic sequence at Liang Bua. Here, we present the results of the first comprehensive study of avian remains retrieved from Sector XI, a 2 m by 2 m archaeological excavation along the east wall of the cave. A total of 579 specimens were identified as avian, with 244 belonging to at least 26 non-passerine taxa in 13 families. The late Pleistocene assemblage (23 taxa) includes the first recorded occurrence of vultures in Wallacea, as well as kingfishers, snipes, plovers, parrots, pigeons, and swiftlets. Together, these taxa suggest that during this time the surrounding environment was floristically diverse and included several habitat types. Two of these taxa, the giant marabou Leptoptilos robustus and the vulture Trigonoceps sp., are extinct. Eight taxa were identified in the Holocene assemblage, and five of these were also present in the late Pleistocene. Imperial pigeons Ducula sp. and the Island Collared Dove Streptopelia cf. bitorquata appear only in the Holocene assemblage. The differences in faunal composition between the late Pleistocene and Holocene assemblages may reflect a change in avifaunal composition due to climatic and environmental changes near the Pleistocene–Holocene transition, possibly amplified by impacts associated with the arrival of modern humans; however, the small Holocene sample prevents a firm conclusion about faunal turnover from being made.
    Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 06/2013; 33(4):877-894. · 2.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The carpals from the Homo floresiensis type specimen (LB1) lack features that compose the shared, derived complex of the radial side of the wrist in Neandertals and modern humans. This paper comprises a description and three-dimensional morphometric analysis of new carpals from at least one other individual at Liang Bua attributed to H. floresiensis: a right capitate and two hamates. The new capitate is smaller than that of LB1 but is nearly identical in morphology. As with capitates from extant apes, species of Australopithecus, and LB1, the newly described capitate displays a deeply-excavated nonarticular area along its radial aspect, a scaphoid facet that extends into a J-hook articulation on the neck, and a more radially-oriented second metacarpal facet; it also lacks an enlarged palmarly-positioned trapezoid facet. Because there is no accommodation for the derived, palmarly blocky trapezoid that characterizes Homo sapiens and Neandertals, this individual most likely had a plesiomorphically wedge-shaped trapezoid (like LB1). Morphometric analyses confirm the close similarity of the new capitate and that of LB1, and are consistent with previous findings of an overall primitive articular geometry. In general, hamate morphology is more conserved across hominins, and the H. floresiensis specimens fall at the far edge of the range of variation for H. sapiens in a number of metrics. However, the hamate of H. floresiensis is exceptionally small and exhibits a relatively long, stout hamulus lacking the oval-shaped cross-section characteristic of human and Neandertal hamuli (variably present in australopiths). Documentation of a second individual with primitive carpal anatomy from Liang Bua, along with further analysis of trapezoid scaling relative to the capitate in LB1, refutes claims that the wrist of the type specimen represents a modern human with pathology. In total, the carpal anatomy of H. floresiensis supports the hypothesis that the lineage leading to the evolution of this species originated prior to the cladogenetic event that gave rise to modern humans and Neandertals.
    Journal of Human Evolution 01/2013; · 4.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report the results of a test excavation of deposits in a limestone cave sub-chamber located beneath the main chamber of Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia; the discovery site of the small hominin species, Homo floresiensis. Well-preserved remains of extinct Pleistocene fauna and stone artefacts have previously been identified on the surface of a sediment cone within the sub-chamber. Our excavation of the deposits, at the base of the sediment cone in the sub-chamber (to 130 cm depth) yielded only a few fragmentary bones of extant fauna. Uranium/Thorium (U-series or U/Th) dating of soda straw stalactites excavated from 20 to 130 cm in depth demonstrates that the excavated sediments were deposited during the Holocene. Red Thermoluminescence (TL) dating of the sediments at the base of the excavation (130 cm depth) indicates these sediments were last exposed to sunlight at 84 ± 15 ka (thousand years), similar to red TL ages of cave sediments from the main chamber. Together, these results indicate that the surface faunal remains, which are morphologically analogous to Pleistocene finds from the main chamber excavations, were transported to the sub-chamber relatively recently from the main chamber of Liang Bua and probably originated from conglomerate deposits at the rear of the cave and from deposits around the front entrance. There is no evidence for hominin occupation of the sub-chamber, instead it seems to have acted as a sink for cultural materials and fossil remains transported from the surface via sinkholes. Despite the small number of finds from the test excavation, it is possible that more extensive excavations may yield additional transported cultural and faunal evidence at greater depths.
    Journal of Archaeological Science 01/2013; 40(1):148–155. · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This paper describes in detail the external morphology of LB1/1, the nearly complete and only known cranium of Homo floresiensis. Comparisons were made with a large sample of early groups of the genus Homo to assess primitive, derived, and unique craniofacial traits of LB1 and discuss its evolution. Principal cranial shape differences between H. floresiensis and Homo sapiens are also explored metrically. The LB1 specimen exhibits a marked reductive trend in its facial skeleton, which is comparable to the H. sapiens condition and is probably associated with reduced masticatory stresses. However, LB1 is craniometrically different from H. sapiens showing an extremely small overall cranial size, and the combination of a primitive low and anteriorly narrow vault shape, a relatively prognathic face, a rounded oval foramen that is greatly separated anteriorly from the carotid canal/jugular foramen, and a unique, tall orbital shape. Whereas the neurocranium of LB1 is as small as that of some Homo habilis specimens, it exhibits laterally expanded parietals, a weak suprameatal crest, a moderately flexed occipital, a marked facial reduction, and many other derived features that characterize post-habilis Homo. Other craniofacial characteristics of LB1 include, for example, a relatively narrow frontal squama with flattened right and left sides, a marked frontal keel, posteriorly divergent temporal lines, a posteriorly flexed anteromedial corner of the mandibular fossa, a bulbous lateral end of the supraorbital torus, and a forward protruding maxillary body with a distinct infraorbital sulcus. LB1 is most similar to early Javanese Homo erectus from Sangiran and Trinil in these and other aspects. We conclude that the craniofacial morphology of LB1 is consistent with the hypothesis that H. floresiensis evolved from early Javanese H. erectus with dramatic island dwarfism. However, further field discoveries of early hominin skeletal remains from Flores and detailed analyses of the finds are needed to understand the evolutionary history of this endemic hominin species.
    Journal of Human Evolution 12/2011; 61(6):644-82. · 4.09 Impact Factor
  • Journal of Quaternary Science 09/2010; · 2.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The stone technology from Mata Menge on Flores, Indonesia, is described, providing the first detailed analysis of the largest stone artefact assemblage from a stratified and securely dated Middle Pleistocene site in Southeast Asia. Technological analysis indicates a reduction sequence based on the centripetal, or “radial”, reduction of transported blanks. The implications for early hominin behaviour on Flores are considered.
    Journal of Archaeological Science 03/2010; 37(3):451-473. · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Previous excavations at Mata Menge and Boa Lesa in the Soa Basin of Flores, Indonesia, recovered stone artefacts in association with fossilized remains of the large-bodied Stegodon florensis florensis. Zircon fission-track ages from these sites indicated that hominins had colonized the island by 0.88 +/- 0.07 million years (Myr) ago. Here we describe the contents, context and age of Wolo Sege, a recently discovered archaeological site in the Soa Basin that has in situ stone artefacts and that lies stratigraphically below Mata Menge and immediately above the basement breccias of the basin. We show using (40)Ar/(39)Ar dating that an ignimbrite overlying the artefact layers at Wolo Sege was erupted 1.02 +/- 0.02 Myr ago, providing a new minimum age for hominins on Flores. This predates the disappearance from the Soa Basin of 'pygmy' Stegodon sondaari and Geochelone spp. (giant tortoise), as evident at the nearby site of Tangi Talo, which has been dated to 0.90 +/- 0.07 Myr ago. It now seems that this extirpation or possible extinction event and the associated faunal turnover were the result of natural processes rather than the arrival of hominins. It also appears that the volcanic and fluvio-lacustrine deposits infilling the Soa Basin may not be old enough to register the initial arrival of hominins on the island.
    Nature 03/2010; 464(7289):748-52. · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Evidence from Liang Bua, a limestone cave on the island of Flores in East Indonesia, provides a unique opportunity to explore the long term relationship between hominins and their environment. Occupation deposits at the site span ∼95 ka and contain abundant stone artefacts, well preserved faunal remains and evidence for an endemic species of hominin: Homo floresiensis. Work at the site included detailed geomorphological and environmental analysis, which has enabled comparisons to be drawn between changes in the occupational intensity in the cave, using stone tool and faunal counts, and changes in the environmental conditions, using the characteristics of the sedimentary layers in the cave and speleothem records. These comparisons demonstrate that H. floresiensis endured rapidly fluctuating environmental conditions over the last ∼100 ka, which influenced the geomorphological processes in the cave and their occupational conditions. The intensity of occupation in the cave changed significantly between 95 and 17 ka, with peaks in occupation occurring at 100–95, 74–61 and 18–17 ka. These correlate with episodes of channel formation and erosion in the cave, which in turn correspond with high rainfall, thick soils and high bio-productivity outside. In contrast, periods of low occupational intensity correlate with reduced channel activity and pooling associated with drier periods from 94 to 75 and 36 to 19 ka. This apparent link between intensity of hominin use of the cave and the general conditions outside relates to the expansion and contraction of the rainforest and the ability of H. floresiensis to adapt to habitat changes. This interpretation implies that these diminutive hominins were able to survive abrupt and prolonged environmental changes by changing their favoured occupation sites. These data provide the basis for a model of human–environment interactions on the island of Flores. With the addition of extra data from other sites on Flores, this model will provide a greater understanding of H. floresiensis as a unique human species.
    Quaternary Science Reviews 12/2009; · 4.57 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Excavations at Liang Bua, a limestone cave on the island of Flores, East Indonesia, have yielded a well-dated archaeological and faunal sequence spanning the last 95k.yr., major climatic fluctuations, and two human species -H. floresiensis from 95 to 17k.yr.(1), and modern humans from 11k.yr. to the present. The faunal assemblage comprises well-preserved mammal, bird, reptile and mollusc remains, including examples of island gigantism in small mammals and the dwarfing of large taxa. Together with evidence from Early-Middle Pleistocene sites in the Soa Basin, it confirms the long-term isolation, impoverishment, and phylogenetic continuity of the Flores faunal community. The accumulation of Stegodon and Komodo dragon remains at the site in the Pleistocene is attributed to Homo floresiensis, while predatory birds, including an extinct species of owl, were largely responsible for the accumulation of the small vertebrates. The disappearance from the sequence of the two large-bodied, endemic mammals, Stegodon florensis insularis and Homo floresiensis, was associated with a volcanic eruption at 17 ka and precedes the earliest evidence for modern humans, who initiated use of mollusc and shell working, and began to introduce a range of exotic animals to the island. Faunal introductions during the Holocene included the Sulawesi warty pig (Sus celebensis) at about 7ka, followed by the Eurasian pig (Sus scrofa), Long-tailed macaque, Javanese porcupine, and Masked palm civet at about 4ka, and cattle, deer, and horse - possibly by the Portuguese within historic times. The Holocene sequence at the site also documents local faunal extinctions - a result of accelerating human population growth, habitat loss, and over-exploitation.
    Journal of Human Evolution 11/2009; 57(5):527-37. · 4.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Several bones of the upper extremity were recovered during excavations of Late Pleistocene deposits at Liang Bua, Flores, and these have been attributed to Homo floresiensis. At present, these upper limb remains have been assigned to six different individuals - LB1, LB2, LB3, LB4, LB5, and LB6. Several of these bones are complete or nearly so, but some are quite fragmentary. All skeletal remains recovered from Liang Bua were extremely fragile, but have now been stabilized and hardened in the laboratory in Jakarta. They are now curated in museum-quality containers at the National Research and Development Centre for Archaeology in Jakarta, Indonesia. These skeletal remains are described and illustrated photographically. The upper limb presents a unique mosaic of derived (human-like) and primitive morphologies, the combination of which is never found in either healthy or pathological modern humans.
    Journal of Human Evolution 11/2009; 57(5):555-70. · 4.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Bones of the lower extremity have been recovered for up to nine different individuals of Homo floresiensis - LB1, LB4, LB6, LB8, LB9, LB10, LB11, LB13, and LB14. LB1 is represented by a bony pelvis (damaged but now repaired), femora, tibiae, fibulae, patellae, and numerous foot bones. LB4/2 is an immature right tibia lacking epiphyses. LB6 includes a fragmentary metatarsal and two pedal phalanges. LB8 is a nearly complete right tibia (shorter than that of LB1). LB9 is a fragment of a hominin femoral diaphysis. LB10 is a proximal hallucal phalanx. LB11 includes pelvic fragments and a fragmentary metatarsal. LB13 is a patellar fragment, and LB14 is a fragment of an acetabulum. All skeletal remains recovered from Liang Bua were extremely fragile, and some were badly damaged when they were removed temporarily from Jakarta. At present, virtually all fossil materials have been returned, stabilized, and hardened. These skeletal remains are described and illustrated photographically. The lower limb skeleton exhibits a uniquely mosaic pattern, with many primitive-like morphologies; we have been unable to find this combination of ancient and derived (more human-like) features in either healthy or pathological modern humans, regardless of body size. Bilateral asymmetries are slight in the postcranium, and muscle markings are clearly delineated on all bones. The long bones are robust, and the thickness of their cortices is well within the ranges seen in healthy modern humans. LB1 is most probably a female based on the shape of her greater sciatic notch, and the marked degree of lateral iliac flaring recalls that seen in australopithecines such as "Lucy" (AL 288-1). The metatarsus has a human-like robusticity formula, but the proximal pedal phalanges are relatively long and robust (and slightly curved). The hallux is fully adducted, but we suspect that a medial longitudinal arch was absent.
    Journal of Human Evolution 11/2009; 57(5):538-54. · 4.09 Impact Factor
  • M J Morwood, W L Jungers
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    ABSTRACT: Excavations at Liang Bua, on the Indonesian island of Flores, have yielded a stratified sequence of stone artifacts and faunal remains spanning the last 95k.yr., which includes the skeletal remains of two human species, Homo sapiens in the Holocene and Homo floresiensis in the Pleistocene. This paper summarizes and focuses on some of the evidence for Homo floresiensis in context, as presented in this Special Issue edition of the Journal of Human Evolution and elsewhere. Attempts to dismiss the Pleistocene hominins (and the type specimen LB1 in particular) as pathological pygmy humans are not compatible with detailed analyses of the skull, teeth, brain endocast, and postcranium. We initially concluded that H. floresiensis may have evolved by insular dwarfing of a larger-bodied hominin species over 880k.yr. or more. However, recovery of additional specimens and the numerous primitive morphological traits seen throughout the skeleton suggest instead that it is more likely to be a late representative of a small-bodied lineage that exited Africa before the emergence of Homo erectus sensu lato. Homo floresiensis is clearly not an australopithecine, but does retain many aspects of anatomy (and perhaps behavior) that are probably plesiomorphic for the genus Homo. We also discuss some of the other implications of this tiny, endemic species for early hominin dispersal and evolution (e.g., for the "Out of Africa 1" paradigm and more specifically for colonizing Southeast Asia), and we present options for future research in the region.
    Journal of Human Evolution 11/2009; 57(5):640-8. · 4.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Excavations at Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia, have yielded evidence for an endemic human species, Homo floresiensis, a population that occupied the cave between approximately 95-17ka. This discovery has major implications for early hominin evolution and dispersal in Africa and Asia, attracting worldwide interest. This preface describes the rationale for the excavations in historical, geographical, and wider research contexts, as well as the methods used. It also introduces the other papers on aspects of Liang Bua research that feature in this edition of the Journal of Human Evolution.
    Journal of Human Evolution 10/2009; 57(5):437-49. · 4.09 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
493.13 Total Impact Points


  • 2008–2014
    • University of Wollongong
      • • Centre for Archaeological Science
      • • School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
      City of Greater Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia
  • 2005–2013
    • University of New England (Australia)
      • Department of Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology
      Армидейл, New South Wales, Australia
  • 2009
    • Stony Brook University
      • Department of Anatomical Sciences
      Stony Brook, NY, United States
  • 2005–2009
    • Florida State University
      • Department of Anthropology
      Tallahassee, FL, United States