Meave Leakey discusses piecing together our human ancestors.
Adding to our understanding of human origins is the life's work of National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Meave Leakey, as she continues her family's legacy of uncovering fossils of our ancient ancestors in East Africa.
Paleontologist Meave Leakey has made significant contributions to our understanding of
human origins, continuing the legacy begun in 1931 by Louis S. B. Leakey
with his discoveries of ancient fossils in Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge.
Over the years the Leakey family members—Louis, Mary, Richard, Meave,
and Louise—have received numerous National Geographic research grants.
completing her first degree at the University of North Wales, Meave
came to Kenya to work for Dr. Louis Leakey at his primate research
center near Nairobi. At the same time she collected data for her
doctoral dissertation, which she completed in 1968.
In 1969, at
the invitation of Richard Leakey, Meave joined a field expedition to the
paleontological site of Koobi Fora on the eastern shores of Kenya's
Lake Turkana. This launched her long-term work on the Turkana Basin
research project. Meave has worked at the National Museums of Kenya
since 1969 and was head of the division of paleontology from 1982 to
2001. In 1989 she became coordinator of the museums' field research in
the Turkana Basin. Her work at nearby Kanapoi in 1994 yielded some of
the earliest hominids known, dated at more than four million years.
The Leakeys currently
run a research station at Lake Turkana to facilitate data collection and
the study of new specimens. Their ongoing annual expeditions to this
area continue to recover important hominid and faunal remains. In 1999,
on a National Geographic-sponsored expedition to the Turkana Basin,
Meave and Louise uncovered a 3.5-million-year-old skull and partial jaw
believed to belong to a new branch of early human named Kenyanthropus platyops. This remarkable discovery, announced in the journal Nature, has profound implications in understanding the origins of mankind.