M J Morwood

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

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Publications (42)424.08 Total impact

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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. · 1.89 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
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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. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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  • Journal of Quaternary Science 01/2010; · 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 01/2010; 37(3):451-473. · 1.89 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
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    ABSTRACT: The announcement of a new species, Homo floresiensis, a primitive hominin that survived until relatively recent times is an enormous challenge to paradigms of human evolution. Until this announcement, the dominant paradigm stipulated that: 1) only more derived hominins had emerged from Africa, and 2) H. sapiens was the only hominin since the demise of Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis. Resistance to H. floresiensis has been intense, and debate centers on two sets of competing hypotheses: 1) that it is a primitive hominin, and 2) that it is a modern human, either a pygmoid form or a pathological individual. Despite a range of analytical techniques having been applied to the question, no resolution has been reached. Here, we use cladistic analysis, a tool that has not, until now, been applied to the problem, to establish the phylogenetic position of the species. Our results produce two equally parsimonious phylogenetic trees. The first suggests that H. floresiensis is an early hominin that emerged after Homo rudolfensis (1.86Ma) but before H. habilis (1.66Ma, or after 1.9Ma if the earlier chronology for H. habilis is retained). The second tree indicates H. floresiensis branched after Homo habilis.
    Journal of Human Evolution 08/2009; 57(5):623-39. · 4.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Homo floresiensis is an endemic hominin species that occupied Liang Bua, a limestone cave on Flores in eastern Indonesia, during the Late Pleistocene epoch. The skeleton of the type specimen (LB1) of H. floresiensis includes a relatively complete left foot and parts of the right foot. These feet provide insights into the evolution of bipedalism and, together with the rest of the skeleton, have implications for hominin dispersal events into Asia. Here we show that LB1's foot is exceptionally long relative to the femur and tibia, proportions never before documented in hominins but seen in some African apes. Although the metatarsal robusticity sequence is human-like and the hallux is fully adducted, other intrinsic proportions and pedal features are more ape-like. The postcranial anatomy of H. floresiensis is that of a biped, but the unique lower-limb proportions and surprising combination of derived and primitive pedal morphologies suggest kinematic and biomechanical differences from modern human gait. Therefore, LB1 offers the most complete glimpse of a bipedal hominin foot that lacks the full suite of derived features characteristic of modern humans and whose mosaic design may be primitive for the genus Homo. These new findings raise the possibility that the ancestor of H. floresiensis was not Homo erectus but instead some other, more primitive, hominin whose dispersal into southeast Asia is still undocumented.
    Nature 06/2009; 459(7243):81-4. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study examines trends in stone tool reduction technology at Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia, where excavations have revealed a stratified artifact sequence spanning 95k.yr. The reduction sequence practiced throughout the Pleistocene was straightforward and unchanging. Large flakes were produced off-site and carried into the cave where they were reduced centripetally and bifacially by four techniques: freehand, burination, truncation, and bipolar. The locus of technological complexity at Liang Bua was not in knapping products, but in the way techniques were integrated. This reduction sequence persisted across the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary with a minor shift favoring unifacial flaking after 11ka. Other stone-related changes occurred at the same time, including the first appearance of edge-glossed flakes, a change in raw material selection, and more frequent fire-induced damage to stone artifacts. Later in the Holocene, technological complexity was generated by "adding-on" rectangular-sectioned stone adzes to the reduction sequence. The Pleistocene pattern is directly associated with Homo floresiensis skeletal remains and the Holocene changes correlate with the appearance of Homo sapiens. The one reduction sequence continues across this hominin replacement.
    Journal of Human Evolution 05/2009; 57(5):503-26. · 4.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The rapidly changing landscape of the eastern Indonesian archipelago has evolved at a pace dictated by its tropical climate and its geological and tectonic history. This has produced accelerated karstification, flights of alluvial terraces, and complex, multi-level cave systems. These cave systems sometimes contain a wealth of archaeological evidence, such as the almost complete skeleton of Homo floresiensis found at the site of Liang Bua in western Flores, but this information can only be understood in the context of the geomorphic history of the cave, and the more general geological, tectonic, and environmental histories of the river valley and region. Thus, a reconstruction of the landscape history of the Wae Racang valley using speleothems, geological structure, tectonic uplift, karst, cave, and terrace development, provides the necessary evidence to determine the formation, age, evolution, and influences on the site. This evidence suggests that Liang Bua was formed as two subterranean chambers approximately 600ka, but could not be occupied until approximately 190ka when the Wae Racang wandered to the southern side of the valley, exposing the chamber and depositing alluvial deposits containing artifacts. During the next approximately 190k.yr., the chambers coalesced and evolved into a multi-level and interconnected cave that was subjected to channel erosion and pooling events by the development of sinkholes. The domed morphology of the front chamber accumulated deep sediments containing well stratified archaeological and faunal remains, but ponded water in the chamber further prevented hominin use of the cave until approximately 100ka. These chambers were periodically influenced by river inundation and volcanic activity, whereas the area outside the cave was greatly influenced by glacial phases, which changed humid forest environments into grassland environments. This combined evidence has important implications for the archaeological interpretation of the site.
    Journal of Human Evolution 04/2009; 57(5):450-64. · 4.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Liang Bua, in Flores, Indonesia, was formed as a subterranean chamber over 600ka. From this time to the present, a series of geomorphic events influenced the structure of the cave and cave deposits, creating a complex stratigraphy. Within these deposits, nine main sedimentary units have been identified. The stratigraphic relationships between these units provide the evidence needed to reconstruct the geomorphic history of the cave. This history was dominated by water action, including slope wash processes, channel formation, pooling of water, and flowstone precipitation, which created waterfalls, cut-and-fill stratigraphy, large pools of water, and extensive flowstone cappings. The reconstructed sequence of events over the last 190k.yr. has been summarized by a series of time slices that demonstrate the nature of the occupational environment in Liang Bua. The earliest artifacts at the site, dated to approximately 190ka, testify to hominin presence in the area, but the reconstructions suggest that occupation of the cave itself may not have been possible until after approximately 100ka. At approximately 95ka, channel erosion of a basal unit, which displays evidence of deposition in a pond environment, created a greater relief on the cave floor, and formed remanent areas of higher ground that later became a focus for hominin occupation from 74-61ka by the west wall and in the center of the cave, and from approximately 18-17ka by the east wall. These zones have been identified according to the sloping nature of the stratigraphy and the distribution of artifacts, and their locations have implications for the archaeological interpretation of the site.
    Journal of Human Evolution 04/2009; 57(5):465-83. · 4.09 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The type specimen (LB1) of Homo floresiensis has been hypothesized to be a pathological human afflicted with Laron Syndrome (LS), a type of primary growth hormone insensitivity (Hershkovitz et al.: Am J Phys Anthropol 134 [2007] 198-208). Comparing measurements, photographs and three-dimensional, computed-tomography reconstructions of LB1 with data and diagnoses from the literature on LS, we critically evaluate numerous skull and postcranial traits that Hershkovitz et al. identified as being shared by LB1 and patients with LS. The statements regarding most of these traits are new to the clinical literature and lack quantitative support. LB1 and patients with LS differ markedly in the size and shape of the cranium; thickness and pneumatization of cranial bones; morphology of the face, mandible, teeth, and chin; form of the shoulder, wrist, and pelvis; and general body proportions including relative foot size. Claims that patients with LS are similar to LB1 in displaying protracted scapulae, short clavicles, low degrees of humeral torsion, flaring ilia, and curved tibiae are not supported by data or corroborating images. Some points of similarity (e.g., femoral neck-shaft angle, femoral bicondylar angle, and estimated stature) can be found in other hominins, and cannot be considered diagnostic. From our review and analysis, we conclude that LB1 did not suffer from LS.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 04/2009; 140(1):52-63. · 2.48 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 01/2009; 57(5):538-54. · 4.09 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
424.08 Total Impact Points


  • 2008–2013
    • University of Wollongong
      • 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