The archaeologist and anthropologist Mary Leakey is celebrated by Google today, on what would have been her 100th birthday, with a colourful doodle that illustrates her discovery of the Laetoli fossilised human footprints in Tanzania in 1978.
Leakey was born on 6 February 1913 in London. As a student, she developed a particular interest in drawing and archaeology.
She is renowned for her work in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, especially for her discovery of the Australopithecus boisei skull in 1959. The skull was dated to 1.75m years ago and helped trace human evolutionary development in Africa.
She also discovered the first fossilised Proconsul skull, an extinct ape that’s now believed to be ancestral to humans.
Leakey married the British archaeologist and naturalist Louis Leakey and the two of them worked together for many years in the Olduvai Gorge to dig for and unearth tools and fossils of ancient members of the human family.
She died on 9 December 1996 in Kenya.
Mary and Louis Leakey inspect the Australopithecus boisei skull found by Mary. Image via Leakey Foundation
In today’s doodle, Google’s stylised logo on its homepage, one of world’s most renowned fossil hunters is depicted finding hominid footprints at a site called Laetoli in Tanzania in 1978. These footprints became known as the ‘Laetoli footprints’ and were about 3.6m years old. They are believed to have been preserved when two early humans walked through volcanic ash.
Replica of an Australopithecus boisei skull discovered by Mary Leakey in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, in 1959. Image via Wikimedia Commons