What Was Louis Leakey’s Greatest Archaeological Find and What Does Homo Habilis Mean In Latin?

In 1960, Louis Leakey found the skull, leg, foot, and hand bones of another hominid in Tanzania, East Africa.

It was dated at around 2 million years old, just slightly older than Zinj. The bones showed that this ancestor walked on two feet and had a large brain, but there were differences.

The teeth were even more similar to human teeth and the hands were different from ape hands, which were designed for strength to swing on tree branches.

The thumb was in position to give the hand more control of its grip. It’s called an opposable thumb. In other words, it was a toolmaker. This was the species responsible for the tools they found with Zinj.

The meaning was clear to Louis Leakey: this species was much more human than ape.

He named it Homo habilis, meaning “handyman,” and claimed that it was the first true human species. He said the Zinj species had died out while Homo habilis, with its new toolmaking ability, survived to become the first ancestor of humans.

Some archaeologists again disagreed with Leakey. They said there was still much more to be discovered before declaring Homo habilis the first human ancestor.

However, there is agreement among archaeologists that the evolution from ape to human took place in several australopith species that lived between 4 million and 2 million years ago.

There is still much to be discovered. Archaeology is, after all, a very young science, it’s still less than 100 years since Raymond Dart found that first hominid skull.

Olduvai Gorge, the site where the Leakeys found so many of their fossils, is now in ruins.

After the publicity of the fossils found there, the place was overrun by souvenir seekers.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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