Louise Leakey hunts for hominid fossils in East Africa, in the family tradition.
Louise Leakey is the third generation of her family to dig for humanity's past in East Africa. In 2001, Leakey and her mother, Meave, found a previously unknown hominid, the 3.5-million-year-old Kenyanthropus platyops, at Lake Turkana -- the same region where her father, Richard, discovered the "Turkana Boy" fossil, and near Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge, where her grandparents, Louise and Mary Leakey, discovered the bones of Homo habilis.
In August 2007 Louise and Meave, both National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, dug up new H. habilis bones that may rewrite humanity's evolutionary timeline. We imagine that we evolved from apes in an orderly progression from ape to hominid to human, but the Leakeys' find suggests that different species of pre-humans actually lived side by side at the same time for almost half a million years.
“If you want to become a fossil, you need to die somewhere where your bones will be rapidly buried. You then hope that the Earth moves in such a way as to bring the bones back up to the surface. And then you hope that one of us [paleontologists] will walk around and find small pieces of you.”
“What is it that really makes us, us? It’s our collective intelligence. It’s our ability to write things down, our language and our consciousness.”