Christopher H.'s Reviews > The Wisdom of the Bones: In Search of Human Origins

The Wisdom of the Bones by Alan Walker
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This was a fascinating account of the discovery of the Homo ergaster (likely the direct African ancestor of Homo erectus) skeleton of a juvenile male (thought to be 8-11 years old at the time of his death) along the shoreline of Lake Turkana in Kenya. This important fossil, some 1.6 million years old, is affectionately known as "Turkana Boy" or the "Nariokotome Boy". This nearly-complete skeleton was found in 1984 by Richard Leakey's team, including Alan Walker, and is formally known as KNM-WT 15000 (i.e., KNM-WT=Kenya National Museum--West Turkana).

Alan Walker's book, The Wisdom of the Bones: In Search of Human Origins is the story of the discovery of the Nariokotome Boy and the interpretation and meaning of his skeleton and place within the ongoing story of human evolution. This hominin species (i.e., H. ergaster) is thought by most anthropologists to be the first to leave Africa and disperse rather broadly across much of Eurasia, with important representative fossils of similar age (or, perhaps slightly younger) being discovered in Dmanisi, Georgia, and then at various locations in Java, Indonesia, and in China.

Overall, this is a wonderful story of a tremendously important scientific discovery and the years of related detective work anthropologists have put in trying to learn as much as they can from the fossil of the Turkana Boy. Walker's story, recounted in this book, is what I always envisioned hominin fossil-hunting in eastern Africa to be all about, and is something that continues to fascinate me to this day. After reading this book I have decided that I'd like to track down a good biography of the Leakey family and learn more about the "Golden Age" of hominin fossil hunting in East Africa.
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