Background Info

This video clip, from the film Bones of Turkana, takes place in the area around ancient Lake Turkana, Kenya. This area is known as a cradle of human life. There is evidence that hominids lived here 4.2 million years ago.

 

This video tells the story of Dr. Jason Lewis, a paleoanthropologist at the Turkana Basin Institute. Lewis travels the world in the pursuit of science. This video also gives insight into the conditions of the life of a scientist working at Lake Turkana and the reasons fossils are so abundant in the region.

Questions

1. 

What makes Lake Turkana a good place for fossils to be preserved?

Show Answer

Lake Turkana is an excellent place to look for fossils for two reasons. First, the lakebed environment provides continuous lying down of sediment, which traps and preserves fossils. Second, geologic activity such as rifting brings those sediments (and fossils trapped inside them) back to the surface for scientists to find.

2. 

What is the focus of Dr. Jason Lewis' work at Lake Turkana?

Show Answer

Lewis studies the fossil record of various animals to better understand how hominid behavior has changed over time.

3. 

How are animal fossils useful for paleoanthropologic dating?

Show Answer

Animal fossils are a much more common find than hominid ones, and they change a lot over time. Once scientists identify a fossil and date it, they can place other fossils found near it to a similar time period.

For Further Exploration

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

anthropology

Noun

science of the origin, development, and culture of human beings.

Encyclopedic Entry: anthropology

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.

paleoanthropology

Noun

study of the fossils of ancient human ancestors. Also called human paleontology.

paleontology

Noun

the study of fossils and life from early geologic periods.

Encyclopedic Entry: paleontology

sediment

Noun

solid material transported and deposited by water, ice, and wind.

Encyclopedic Entry: sediment

Credits

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Writer

Hannah Herrero

Editors

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society
Elizabeth Wolzak, National Geographic Society

Expert Reviewer

Jill Wertheim, National Geographic Society

Producers

Alison Michel
J.J. Kelley

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