In 1995, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Meave Leakey and her team made a very important discovery at Lake Turkana, Kenya. They found fossils of what turned out to be an Australopithecus anamensis. The discovery indicates that the date of the occurrence of bipedalism needed to be moved back by half a million years, to about 4.2 million years ago. This was not the first major paleoanthropologic discovery at Lake Turkana. In 1972, Bernard Ngenyeo, colleague to Richard and Meave Leakey, discovered the fossil of a Homo habilis, that was about 1.9 million years old. In 1984, the Leakey team found an almost-complete fossilized skeleton that was dated to about 1.5 million years ago. This was a Homo erectus and is famously known as "Turkana Boy."
This clip is an excerpt from the film Bones of Turkana. The film takes place in the area around ancient Lake Turkana. This area is known as a cradle of human life. There is evidence of hominids that lived here 4.2 million years ago. This film depicts the lives of some human ancestors.
This video from Bones of Turkana focuses on significant fossil discoveries made at Lake Turkana.
The video assumes some familiarity with the theory of evolution, the process of how organisms developed from earlier forms of life. Evolution is not a linear process, but a dynamic one. One species does not morph directly into another, but diverges from its ancestors. Evolution takes place throughout a population over a long period of time due to environmental pressures. This video sometimes uses the phrases "more advanced or less advanced" which actually don't apply to evolution. Species evolve to fit the particular environment that they are occupying at a given time, not to "advance" to a different evolutionary stage.
What evidence can you give for proving that Australopithecus anamensis was bipedal? Why was this significant?
When did Homo habilis, or "handyman," start making stone tools? What can we infer about its brain size? What else can you predict from this information?
Who is Turkana Boy?
Compare and contrast Australopithecus anamensis, Homo habilis, and Homo erectus.
For Further Exploration
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry anthropology Noun
science of the origin, development, and culture of human beings.
Encyclopedic Entry: anthropology Australopithecus anamensis Noun
(4.9 million years ago-3.2 million years ago) species of primates (hominid) whose fossils have been found in Africa.
form of movement where an animal consistently uses two legs for standing or walking.
process of how present types of organisms developed from earlier forms of life.
field work Noun
scientific studies done outside of a lab, classroom, or office.
Encyclopedic Entry: field work fossil Noun
remnant, impression, or trace of an ancient organism.
Encyclopedic Entry: fossil hominid Noun
biological family of primates, including humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, and their ancestors.
Homo erectus Noun
(1.8-1.3 million years ago) species of primates (hominid) whose fossils have been found in Africa and Asia.
Homo habilis Noun
(2.5-1.5 million years ago) species of primates (hominid) whose fossils and stone tools have been found in Africa.
the study of fossils and life from early geologic periods.
Encyclopedic Entry: paleontology