THE Australian connection to the hobbit story began a decade ago in the West Australian Kimberley region. Morwood and Hobbs were on a dig when conversation turned to the big questions about our continent: when, why and how did the first people arrive in Australia 50,000 or so years ago? They knew pottery had been left scattered on the Kimberley coastline by Indonesian seafarers who came between 1720 and 1900 to collect sea cucumbers. It set them wondering whether ancient humans might have used the same currents and sea routes to travel south. “So we hired a boat and went sailing in the shallow Arafura Sea,” Hobbs says.
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