Millions of years ago, our ancestors survived in a very different environment than we have today. They encountered large, terrifying mammals and had to work each day to ensure food and shelter for their survival. The Paleolithic Age saw advances with stone tools while the Neolithic Age brought the discovery of farming and permanent settlements. By investigating the past, we can gain greater insight into our relationship to the earth and each other.
Students can research and create a biography poster on a person who has made a contribution to our knowledge about evolution and early humans! This poster is about Mary Leakey, the famous paleoanthropologist!
Mary Douglas Nicol Leakey was born on February 6, 1913 in London, England. She was the daughter of an artist and she loved to draw. Mary would use this talent in her career in paleoanthropology. When Mary was only 17 years old, she acted as an illustrator on an archeological dig! Mary met Louis S. B. Leakey, an archeologist and anthropologist, in the 1930s and they married in 1937. As a team, the Leakeys moved to Africa and worked to uncover a number of fossils in Tanzania. On her love of adventure and expeditions, Mary said: "I'd rather be in a tent than in a house!"
In 1948, Mary discovered the partial skull fossil of an ancestor of both apes and humans called Proconsulafricanus. It is believed to be 18 million years old and is considered a pivotal discovery. In 1959, Mary discovered the partial skull fossil of an early human known today as Australopithecus boisei. This hominid had a small brain and large teeth and is believed to be 2 million years old.In 1960, the Leakeys made another dramatic discovery. They found the fossils of what is called Homo habilis, a hominid that lived between 2.3-1.6 million years ago! This hominid showed evidence of using stone tools earning it the nickname "Handy Man".
Louis Leakey died in 1972 but Mary continued their life's work. In 1979, Mary made another major discovery when she found a trail of early human footprints in Tanzania. This was considered the first direct evidence of physical activity by hominids. Mary wrote two books later in life. Olduvai Gorge: My Search for Early Man and her autobiography Disclosing the Past. Mary died in Nairobi, Kenya, Africa on December 9, 1996. Her children Richard, Jonathan, and Philip continue her work through the Leakey Foundation. Mary Leakey is remembered as a pioneer and paleoanthropologist whose important discoveries advanced our knowledge and understanding of our early humans.