Started modern science of paleoanthropology (Study of Human Origins)
Louis and Mary Leakey found fossils in Tanzania and Kenya that indicated man’s evolution began in East Africa 2 million years ago, far earlier than was believed at the time of the discovery.
In Kenya in 1947, Mary Leakey discovered the skull of Proconsul africanus, an ape-like ancestor of both apes and prehistoric man that ived about 25 million years ago.
1978 she made her most important discovery: footprints frozen for 3.5 million years in volcanic mud that demonstrated that early hominids walked upright much earlier than previously thought.
she found fossilized parts of the upper teeth and skull of a hominid no one had recorded before, eroding out of an area near Bed I. In the next three weeks the Leakeys found more than 400 pieces to comprise an almost complete skull. It was not too different from remains found in South Africa by Raymond Dart in 1924 and by Robert Broom in 1936. (Those finds had not been accurately dated because of the way they were found and the lack of dating technology.) But the Leakeys thought their find different enough to constitute a new category of hominids, and called it Zinjanthropus boisei. They suggested that it lived 1.75 million years ago
In 1960, Mary Leakey and son Jonathan found another, smaller form of hominid at Olduvai that they believed was different and more advanced. They called it Homo habilis (handy human) because it appeared to be the first human to use tools. The designation of these two new groups raised a great deal of controversy. Zinjanthropus has since been put by most scientists into the Australopithecine genus, which the South African finds also belong to, though in different species. Homo habilis is now widely accepted, dating back about 2 million years. The 1972 discovery by the Leakeys’ son Richard of another Homo habilis (often called Turkana Boy or ER-1470), dated to 1,900,000 years ago, helped confirm this. It also supported L.S.B. Leakey’s startling suggestion that the Homo genus did not evolve from Australopithecus, but that parallel lineages of hominids were developing at the same time he was also largely responsible for convincing other scientists that Africa was the key location in which to search for evidence of human origins.
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Leakey began leading expeditions to Olduvai, a river gorge in Tanzania, where he found important fossils and Stone Age tools. In 1948 he reported finding a 20-million-year-old skull, which he named Proconsul africanus. Now considered to be too specialized to have been a direct ancestor of current ape and human populations, Proconsul is still considered scientifically valuable as a model for early human ancestors.
Richard famous (with Alan Walker in 1984), “Turkana Boy,” a Homo erectus roughly 1.6 million years old, is one of the most complete skeletons ever found.
Meave Leakey recently impressed the world with her 1999 discovery of a 3.5 million-year-old skull and partial jaw believed to belong to new branch of early hominids
Kenyanthropus platyops (flat-faced man of Kenya).
This remarkable discovery, announced in the journal Nature, has profound implications in understanding the origins of mankind. In its front-page story on March 22, 2001, The New York Times wrote that the discovery “threatens to overturn the prevailing view that a single line of descent stretched through the early stages of human ancestry.
Field research in Turkana has focused on finding evidence of the very earliest human ancestors, concentrating on sites between 8 and 4 million years old. In 1994, remains of some of the earliest hominids known were discovered at Kanapoi, south west of the lake region. Not only do these finds represent a new species Australopithecus anamensis (a likely ancestor of Australopithecus afarensis, the earliest hominid species previously recognized), but the dating of the find at four million years old has called for revising the accepted timeline for the evolution of hominids.
... million years ago, and are closer to modern humans than apes. However, new evidence suggests that the Australopithecus family was not the only hominid ... fraudulent Piltdown man, a skull of a supposedly large-brained ancestor, with an ape-like jaw. 'The hoax was ... writers at least, to be the likely pattern of early human evolution.' Engels' materialist viewpoint challenged the existing orthodoxy of ...