paleoanthropologist

Mary Leakey (1913-1996) was a paleoanthropologist who made several important discoveries related to the evolution of humanity. In 1948 she discovered the first ever fossilised Proconsul skull, an extinct ape and an early ancestor of humans.

Even though she showed a great interest in archaeology from an early age and wanted to apply to Oxford, she was discouraged to do so, and was turned away from several excavation sites until finally being allowed to work. Throughout her career she discovered fossils and stone tools belonging to different species of early hominids, some of them more than 3.75 million years old. She discovered fifteen new species and one new genus of animal.

PreHistoric Murder Uncovered!

In northern Spain about 430,000 years ago, the bodies of at least 28 early humans found their way to the bottom of a 43-foot-deep shaft in the bedrock that archaeologists call Sima de los Huesos, or “Pit of the Bones.” They were not humans, but rather evolutionary precursors of Neanderthals, which modern scientists have named Homo heidelbergensis. Several explanations have been proposed: Carnivores might have dragged them there, or perhaps 28 separate hapless hominins accidentally fell down the shaft. But we know at least one was a murder victim!

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A new New York Times video examines the life and legacy of Mary Leakey.

The short documentary remembers the pioneering paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, who discovered footprints of human ancestors on the African savanna. Her colleagues, several of whom help narrate, including American Museum of Natural History Curator Emeritus Ian Tattersall, uniformly remember her as an extraordinary character. Leakey was exacting in her science, and expected the same of her workers. 

Watch the video.

In a Tooth, DNA From Some Very Old Cousins, the Denisovans

A tooth fossil discovered in a Siberian cave has yielded DNA from a vanished branch of the human tree, mysterious cousins called the Denisovans, scientists said on Monday.

Their analysis pushes back the oldest known evidence for Denisovans by 60,000 years, suggesting that the species was able to thrive in harsh climates for thousands of generations. The results also suggest that the Denisovans may have interbred with other ancient hominins, relatives of modern humans that science has yet to discover.

Todd Disotell, a paleoanthropologist at New York University who was not involved in the new study, said the report added to growing evidence that our species kept company with many near relatives over the past million years. The world, Dr. Disotell said, “was a lot like Middle-earth. There you’ve got elves and dwarves and hobbits and orcs.” Read more.


TODAY’S GOOGLE DOODLE HONORS THE 41ST ANNIVERSARY OF THE DISCOVERY OF LUCY

‘Lucy’, is the name given to a collection of fossilized bones that once made up the skeleton of a hominid from the Australopithecus afarensis species, who lived in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago.

She was named after The Beatles song 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’

After making the historic find, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson headed back to his campsite with his team.

He put a Beatles cassette in the tape player, and when Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds came on, one of the group said he should call the skeleton Lucy.

“All of a sudden, she became a person,” Johanson said in an interview with BBC.