National Geographic : 1961 Oct
Every mother in the world knows how her child's teeth develop: First there are the so-called milk teeth, which begin to appear in the first year or two of the child's life. Then come the first mo lars, permanent teeth that develop at the age of five and a half to six and a half years. Following these come the second molars, at about age ten and a half to twelve. Fossil that it is, our pre-Zinj child was like every living child in the world when it came to tooth development, and in its jaw the first molars are already worn down with use, whereas the second molars have emerged but show little wear. The third molars, which generally appear about the age of sixteen or later, have not even begun to push through the jawbone (page 569). Clues Found to Oldest Murder Mystery Unquestionably then, our new find died when it was about eleven or twelve years old. How did it die? That is not an easy question, for we are working, you must remember, with clues more than a million and a half years old! It would seem, however, that our child died by violence rather than by disease. In our excavating we found the parietals, the bones that form the dome of the skull. The child's left parietal shows clear signs of having received a blow. There is an obvious point of impact, a break in the skull that reaches even to the inner wall, and fractures that radiate from the break (page 568). The child could not have fallen on a rock, for the simple reason that there were no rocks at all on the mud flats where it lived, except for the small stone tools we found, and a fall on one of those could never have caused the massive fracture. I think it is reasonable to say that the child re ceived-and probably died from-what in mod ern police parlance is known as "a blow from a blunt instrument." But let us turn for a moment from our Sher lock Holmesian deductions and see what this new discovery means in terms of man's development. That, after all, is the vital question. Where does our newcomer fit into Olduvai's im mense fossil jigsaw puzzle? Is it a true man, and if so, when did it live and what was it like? Does it replace Zinjanthropus as the world's earliest known man? Some of these questions we can answer now, and some will simply have to wait. To begin with, when I say "child" in referring to the new jaw, skull parts, foot and finger bones, I do not imply that the child's father was neces sarily a man in the strict scientific sense. As read ers of the earlier article will remember, scientists generally agree on the technical definition of man as one who made tools in a regular, set pattern, 574 Fossil Hunters at Olduvai Take a Dinner Break This open-air shed serves as bedroom and camp dining room. Sitting between the author and his wife are Mrs. Shir ley Coryndon, Dr. Leakey's assistant; Jonathan, one of the Leakeys' sons; and Dr. Matthew W. Stirling, a member of the Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. Maxie and Trixie share the dirt floor.