Zinjanthropus

Name ID 696

See also

Map and Guide to Tanzania
Page Number: 02a


Unknown to non-Africans before the colonial period, the prehistory of the interior of Africa has since been partly pieced together. Discovered by chance in 1910 by a German entomologist who stumbled across some fossils and bones, evidence of human life was found in Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge and the place attracted the attention of Professor Leakey and his wife, whose names are forever linked to the site. Their research started in 1931 but it was not until 1959 that Mary Leakey found fragments of teeth and a skull which were part of a male hominid whom they called Zinjanthropus or Nutcracker Man, because of his huge teeth. The skull was dated to be 1.75 to 2 million years old and was proof that hominids inhabited the area; it shifted the centre of human evolution from Asia to Africa and the discovery 20 years later of footprints at Laetoli south of Olduvai pushed back the presence of hominids to 3.5 to 4 million years.

Extract ID: 3988

See also

Dente, Jenny Mary Douglas Nicol Leakey 1913-1996
Page Number: 10
Extract Date: 1959

Discovers Zinjanthropus

Although she enjoyed this artistic interlude to her career, Mary soon found herself back in the dirt, this time excavating in Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania. Louis had first visited the gorge in 1931 and was overwhelmed by the wealth of archaeological material existing there, but for many years he lacked the money to initiate a proper excavation. Finally, in 1951, with some monetary assistance from Charles Boise, the Leakeys were able to establish a base camp and begin their investigations.

The next seven years brought steady progress but no incredible finds. Then, the morning of July 17, 1959, Mary was walking through site FLK with her Dalmatians (Louis was sick at camp with the flu), when she caught sight of what looked like a hominid skull protruding from the ground. On closer investigation, she saw that two teeth were still intact in the upper jaw and that everything appeared in situ. She'd discovered "Zinjanthropus" (later named Australopithecus Boise). Scientists agree that "Zinj" is on an evolutionary side branch-not a direct human ancestor; however, the 1.75-million-year-old specimen was the first of his species ever found, and at the time of his discovery, the oldest hominid. Mary says in her autobiography, "two major discoveries marked turning points in my life, the finding of Proconsul in 1948, and the finding of Zinj in 1959."

Extract ID: 3314

See also

Ofcansky, Thomas P and Yeager, Rodger Historical Dictionary of Tanzania
Page Number: xxiii
Extract Date: 1959 July 17

'Zinjanthropus'

Louis and Mary Leakey discover 'Zinjanthropus' at Olduvai Gorge.

Extract ID: 1275
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