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Leakey, Mary (Douglas)

africa expedition east archaeological

née Nicol (1913–96) British palaeoanthropologist: discovered several hominids.

Mary Nicol had a somewhat unconventional upbringing, travelling a good deal and lacking a regular formal education. Her father was a landscape painter. Interested in archaeology and early man, she attended lectures at University College, London, and between 1930 and 1933 worked on several archaeological digs in England. Her ability as an illustrator brought her into contact with , whom she joined in 1935 on an archaeological expedition to Olduvai Gorge, East Africa, and married the following year. She spent much of her life searching for hominids in East Africa, and made many of the discoveries for which she and her husband became well-known. In 1959 she found the skull of Zinjanthropus boisei , a species of Australopithecus and a possible ancestor of man. It is notable as the first hominid to be reliably dated, by the K/Ar method, at 1.75 million years. In 1976 Mary Leakey led an expedition to Laetoli, Tanzania, on which the earliest evidence of man’s ancestors yet found was discovered: two sets of hominid footprints in a layer of volcanic ash provided indisputable evidence that man’s predecessors walked upright 3.75 million years ago.

Lean on Me (1989) - Overview, Synopsis, Critique [next] [back] Leakey, Louis (Seymour Bazett)

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