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There and Back Again – Author and Archaeologist Dr Debbie Argue on Life After Burgmann

Alumna Dr Debbie Argue (1971) recently gifted Burgmann College a copy of her book, Little Species, Big Mystery: The Story of Homo Floresiensis.

While the words ‘Homo Floresiensis’ might not mean much to you, chances are you remember the discovery of the 1-metre-tall ancient human-like species nicknamed the ‘Hobbit’. Since the news broke in 2004, there have been many exciting discoveries made about our tiny cousins, though with many more questions still unanswered.

Debbie’s book explores the journey of this exciting scientific discovery, from the unearthing of the first Hobbit bones through to the current day.

Though Debbie is an eminent specialist in the field, she initially followed a different path after leaving Burgmann.

“I did secondary school teaching until I had saved up enough to follow my childhood dream—travel. I backpacked across Europe, the Middle East and Asia for about a year, and, en route, met the wonderful young man who would become my husband.” 

Luckily for the scientific community, Debbie then went on to do further study—this time in archaeology, before taking on an MA and PhD in human evolution. Debbie now works as an archaeologist, a specialist in human evolution, and an honorary lecturer in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the ANU.

So, what prompted her to write this book at this time?

“Well, two things. I was very fortunate to have been involved in the Homo floresiensis story since the news of its discovery burst upon an unsuspecting world in 2004, and to have had the opportunity to study the bones of this small, enigmatic hominin species (aka ‘the hobbit) at the National Research Centre for Archaeology in Jakarta. Secondly, no book has focused exclusively on the H. floresiensis story since Mike Morwood and Penny van Oosterzee published The Discovery of the Hobbit in 2007. I thought that an up-to-date account was due—we know so much more about this species now.”

Given the rave reviews and the fact that her book won the 2022 John Mulvaney Book Award, it appears it was indeed the perfect time for an update on the Hobbit.

When asked what her fondest memory of Burgmann is, she’s quick to answer. “The amazing sense of camaraderie.”

While Debbie is a lover of music, this doesn’t extend to the bagpipe playing resident who decided to practice while walking down the College hallways at 3am (here’s hoping current residents don’t get any ideas from that story...).

Finally, when asked if she has any advice for Burgmann residents, her reply is simple.

“I hope they all have a wonderful life at university and on into their futures.”

Thank you, Debbie, for both your time and your incredible book.

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