Institute of Archaeology

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Mary Leakey remembered

21 February 2013

Mary Leakey, British archaeologist and anthropologist (Source:http://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/images/A16794)

6 February 2013 marked the centenary of the birth of Mary Leakey, who was a prominent student of UCL renowned for her archaeological work on human origins in East Africa.

Mary spent the majority of her career at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania where she discovered the cranium of Australopithecus boisei, formerly Zinjanthropus boisei, in 1959.  This discovery was the first fossil human ancestor recovered in East Africa and marked the beginning of the 'Golden Age' of paleoanthropology and major funding for human origins research.

Today her excavations at Olduvai Gorge serve as the foundation for the research being conducted by the Olduvai Geochronology and Archaeology Project, an international research team based here at the UCL Institute of Archaeology and led by Ignacio de la Torre, Jackson Njau (Indiana University) and Lindsay McHenry (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee).

Following receipt of funding from the US National Science Foundation, British Academy and, more recently, the European Research Council, the current collaborative research project at Olduvai aims to review previous paradigms on the origins of the Acheulean by developing a comprehensive research programme based on the retrieval of fresh data derived from new laboratory and fieldwork research.