Colleagues of influential rock art researcher Mike Morwood have described his death as a sad day for the archaeological community.

The University of Wollongong archaeologist was best known for his discovery of an ancient, dwarf-like species of pre-humans, known as "hobbit", on the Indonesian island of Flores.

Professor Morwood had more recently been working with traditional owners analysing rock art on the Mitchell Plateau in Western Australia.

He died this week after a battle with cancer. He was 62.

Professor Morwood's colleague, Archae-Aus managing director Fiona Hook, said he would be remembered for his passion and contribution to science.

"Professor Mike Morwood was a tireless researcher with a huge breadth of research interests in the Asia-Pacific and the Australasia region," she said.

Professor Morwood began his career studying Aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley, which led to an interest in the Asian origins of the first people to come to Australia.

A long-time colleague, Professor Bert Roberts, said the eventual discovery of Homo floresiensis, aka "the hobbit", was an amazing achievement by a great archaeologist and man.

"It was the adventure of a lifetime for Mike," he said.

"The fact that he actually could discover a brand new species of human, I mean, how many archaeologists and anthropologists can ever do that?

"It really is a very, very rare treat and Mike was just absolutely overjoyed to be able to go through that adventure, because it's never to be repeated.

"I never expect to be involved in something as exciting again in my life."

 

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