National Geographic : 1963 Jan
Fragment of upper jaw of Kenyapith ecus (below) suggests a step in the an cestry of man. Its broken canine (left) ranks in size between that of Sivapith ecus and that of modern man (right). The canine fossa, a depression in the bone, resembles man's; it anchored a muscle that in humans helps control lip movements of speech. cording to science, are you and I. And so was Kenyapithecus wickeri. To understand the significance of this fos sil discovery, we must go back into the dim past, for the Hominoidea are fantastically old. In the history of this group, there existed not only various ancestral types of modern apes but also types that led toward man. Several recent Hominoidea discoveries include Zinjanthropus, whose story I have already told; the pre-Zinjanthropus child which I have also described; and the long sought Chellean man, the bolas-wielder of Tanganyika's Olduvai Gorge.* All these creatures represented stages in man's development, but they are relatively late Hominoidea. The oldest fossil remains we have found at Olduvai date from a little more than two million years ago back to the Lower Pleistocene, the epoch that began, very roughly, three million years ago. But what about the countless millions of years before the Pleistocene? What sort of creatures were our Hominoidea then, and how did they develop? To answer these ques tions is to shed new light on man as he is today. Kenyapithecus, I am sure, will provide an important chapter in the fascinating story KODACHROMES BY ROBERTS. OAKES, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICSTAFF() N.G.S . of man's development. In a sense it will be the sequel to a striking find made by Mary almost 15 years ago. Mary's extraordinary discovery occurred in 1948 on the island of Rusinga in Lake Victo ria, which lies at the juncture of Tanganyika, Kenya, and Uganda (map, opposite). Rusinga had long been one of our major excavations. Mary and I had uncovered more than a hun dred fossil sites there before World War II slowed our work. Island Fossil Beds Yield a Prize We knew we had only scratched the sur face, and so after the war we went back to Rusinga for a more intensive search. The Rusinga deposits were laid down in the Miocene Epoch, which began about 40 million years ago. Thus the Rusinga beds -which belong to the early part of the Mio cene-are very much older than those at Fort Ternan or Olduvai. In 1948 Mary and I were back at Rusinga for a few weeks, working at a site we call *Dr. Leakey has told of earlier finds in previous NA TIONAL GEOGRAPHIC articles: "Exploring 1,750,000 Years Into Man's Past," October, 1961; "Finding the World's Earliest Man," September, 1960.