National Geographic : 1965 Feb
Family in Search of Prehistoric Man How does Louis Leakey do it? "Growing up in constant contact with ani mals," he explains, "you develop an almost subconscious interpretation of their every movement. A quiver of the paw, a change of facial expression, a ripple of the muscles can mean that an animal is going to rise. Another signal announces a change from a walk to a run. And any lion, before he charges, will roar and twitch his tail violently. "Here at Olduvai we must know these things to survive. We're never armed. If we weren't always subconsciously alert to ani mals and their ways, we probably would have been dead long ago. You only stumble across a lion with its kill once. Or a touchy rhino shepherding its young." After dinner Louis and I sat gazing across Olduvai. Beyond the raw slash of the gorge rose a series of magnificent rolling hills. Recent rainfalls had freshened the usually parched vegetation, and now the dying sun picked out shifting shades of green-here bright emerald, there a deep, smoldering olive. It was that magic hour of peace, that mo- ment of suspended stillness that presages the African night. The creatures of daylight were quietly bedding down; the prowlers of dark ness were not yet abroad. Even the insects seemed to observe a short-lived truce. Sitting in the silence, I felt an almost phys ical sense of the past. The brooding gorge before me was a link to the dim, far eons when bizarre creatures roamed the earth. And of all that strange long-perished company whose remains lie entombed in Olduvai, one seems to have been destined to give rise to man. Ancient Tools Whet a Boy's Interest "Tell me, Louis," I asked, caught in the spell of the moment, "what led you to study prehistory?" "It all started when I was a boy," he said. "Ornithology was my first love, and, while seeking out birds, I used to find stone arrow heads and tools-generally after heavy rain storms. Rain, of course, turns them up by eroding covering layers of soil or washing them into gullies. "The Kikuyu called them 'spirit's razors,' " KODACHROMESBY MELVIN M. PAYNE (ABOVE) AND BARONHUGO VAN LAWICK N.G.S. Bantam rhinoceros left its jaw at Fort Ternan, Kenya, fourteen million years ago. Animal graveyard at Fort Ternan entombs the bones of thousands of beasts. African assistant Joseph Mutaba expertly cleans an antelope backbone with a dental pick and soft brush before labeling individual bits for reassembly. How did the mass slaughter occur? Perhaps gas from a natural vent near a water hole poisoned the animals as they came to drink. Today the graveyard forms a rock outcrop on an orange farm.