Richard Leakey was born December 19, 1944 in Nairobi, Kenya. His parents were the esteemed anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey. Richard first became a tour guide in Kenya, but changed his mind when he found an extinct human jaw. He then schooled himself by completing a two-year secondary education program in six months. From 1967-77 he and his co-workers dug up around 400 fossils, that accounted for 230 individuals. The most important discovery was an almost complete skull found in 1977, which Richard believe to be a new species called Homo habilis.
Richard Leakey’s accomplishments are discovering the crania of Australopithecus boisei in 1969 with the archaeologist Glynn Isaac on the East shores of Lake Turkana, Homo habilis in 1972, and Homo erectus in1975. He was appointed administrative director in 1968 of the National Museum of Kenya, and in director 1974. Since 1989 he has been director of the Wildlife and Conservation Management Service, Kenya. His publications include Origins in 1977 and The Making of Mankind in 1981, both with Roger Lewin.
Australopithecus africanus inhabited the earth roughly 3 – 1.6 million years ago. The characteristic difference between the Ausrtalopithicus afarenis and africanus is the height and brain capacity. The height of the africanus is 1.4 m and the brain capacity is approximately 400 – 600 cc. Smaller incisor teeth and a slightly flatter face are also noted. The afarensis has a height of 1.2 m and a cranial capacity of 380 – 450 cc. Sticks, and stones were most likely used to gather food by the Australopithecus africanus.
Homo habilis (also known as “handy man”) is theorized to have lived with Australopithecus africanus. Homo habilis was known as “handy man” because he used primative stone tools. The flat face and large molars of the Homo habilis resemble the Australopithecus lineage. The brain size of the Homo habilis is about 700 cc which is larger than the Australopithecus). The “apelike” body structure with long arms and a small body was a characteristic of the Homo habilis.
Recent discoveries, such as from Lake Turkana, of better-preserved fossils have revealed new insights on early Homo in the Plio-Pleistocene. Of this new habilis material, the most amazing is a nearly complete cranium discovered in 1972 at East Lake Turakana. This individual, with a cranial capacity if 775 cm3, is clearly outside the known range for Australopithecines and it overlaps the lower boundary for Homo. Also, the shape of the skull vault and face are unlike that of Australopithec- ines.
Lewin, Roger. Human Evolution: An Illustrated Introduction: Second Edition. London: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1989.
Lambert, David. The Cambridge Guide to Prehistoric Man. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
Jurmain, Robert/ Nelson, Harry/ Kilgore, Lynn. Essentials of Physical Anthropology: Second Edition. San Francisco: West Publishing Company, 1995.
Howell, Clark. LIFE Nature Library Early Man. Canada:
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