Kamuya Kimio, the famous fossil hunter in Africa, died

Kamuya Kimio, a Kenyan who worked with the famous Lekki family of paleontologists, is considered one of the most successful fossil hunters in the world, excavating skeletons millions of years old that proves it A wise manthe first modern humans, originated in Africa and not in Asia, as previously thought.

His work also helped scientists understand how the ancestors of ancient humans evolved and when they began walking straight, rather than on all fours, more than 4 million years ago.

His daughter, Jennifer Kamuya, announced to Kenyan media, that Mr Kamuya, as he has always been known, died on 20 July in a hospital in Nairobi, at the age of 83 or 84. She said he believed he was born in 1938 but did not have a birth certificate.

The National Museums of Kenya (NMK), where he worked for years as a curator of historical sites and who described him as “without doubt the best fossil hunter in the world ever”, said he was hospitalized in July and died of kidney failure.

Mr Kamuya was part of, and often a team leader, a team known as the “Gang of Humans” founded in the late 1950s by Louis Leakey, the son of British missionaries in Kenya who started a family dynasty of fossil hunters. Under the auspices of Leakey and his colleague Marie and fellow paleontologist, Mr. Kamuya trained many Kenyans—plumpers, piped in hand around a campfire, stories of traveling on camels, and shot by hunters and bandits. When touching the eyeball of lions or crocodiles.

One of the reasons he was important to the Leakey family was his mastery of tribal languages. He was able to deal diplomatically with the village elders who initially suspected a bone-searching white man in their homeland. His diplomacy and humility also kept him away from some of the disagreements that arose among international paleontologists over who made what, when and what were the most important discoveries.

In 1984, he and his team discovered human skull fragments, and eventually the entire skull—and after four years of careful digging with toothpicks and toothbrushes—the nearly complete skeleton of a boy believed to be 12 years old or younger, 1.6 dead, was found. Million years ago in Kenya.

The fossil became known as the Turkana Boy, because it was found near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, beginning with a matchbox-sized piece of skull that Mr. Kamuya spotted shimmering among the dirt on the dry bed of the Nariokotomi River. It is now considered one of the most important discoveries in paleontology and the quest to understand human origins. Alan Walker, an Englishman who was a paleontologist in Pennsylvania at the time, painstakingly helped assemble the skeleton after Mr. Kamuya exposed the skull fragment.

One of Mr. Kamuya’s later excavations, in 1994, revealed a 4.1 million-year-old human tibia bone, which, along with ancient footprints later discovered, proved that human ancestors did indeed walk straight, like standing manat that time.

Kamuya Kimio was born in a village in Makweni County in what was then British East Africa, now southern Kenya. His father, a good shepherd, added to his income from the railway construction business. He went to a Christian missionary school, learning English and Swahili to add to his native language, Kikamba, before helping the family’s income by tending their goats and working on a British-owned dairy farm.

Around 1960, he heard that Louis and Mary Leakey were looking for local field workers to help them excavate fossils. At first, he was wary of insulting his ancestors. “Digging human bones was associated with witchcraft,” he told the Christian Science Monitor. It has been a taboo in African custom. But I was just an adventurous young man, eager to travel and discover things.”

Richard Leakey, who died in January and was the son of Louis and Mary, said Mr. Kamuya had an innate talent for finding fossils of both elephants and humans. One interviewer told in 2018: “There is something almost magical in the way Kamuya or one of his team can go up a cliff that appears to be filled with gravel and pick up a small piece of fossilized black bone, declaring that it is, say, part of the upper front end of an antelope. It is not magic, but an invaluable accumulation of skills and knowledge.”

In 1985, after the discovery of a Turkana boy, Kamuya was invited to Washington, where President Ronald Reagan presented him with the John Oliver La Gorse Medal from the National Geographic Society, named after an American writer and explorer who spent most of his life working with him. the society.

Among the survivors is his wife, Marie Mbeki. five children a brother; Three sisters and four grandchildren.

Louise Leakey, granddaughter of Lewis and Mary Leakey, a paleontologist still researching and analyzing fossils in Kenya, told the Washington Post this week: “Kamuya was a kind, gentle-spoken, hardworking worker, always awake before anyone and the last bed. He was respected and loved by the He accepted everyone who worked with him, the foreign scientists and the ‘human-human gang’ who worked under him.”

“He loved to sit at the end of the day and tell stories under the stars,” she added. He once described my grandmother teaching them how to dig in pits. She said: – Carefully, carefully. “You don’t dig potatoes.” “

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