Google Honours Centenary of Anthropologist Mary Leakey


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Google’s tribute to Mary Leakey, evolutionary archaeologist 6 February 2013. Image by Google

Google Highlights the Laetoli Fossil Footprints

Google’s cartoon shows Mary in typical archaeologist mode, digging tools beside her, examining the ancient footprints she excavated at Laetoli in Tanzania. Nearby are two dalmation dogs, symbolic of her hobby as a breeder of these spotted pets.

Unique at the time that she found them, 1976-1978, the Laetoli fossilised footsteps proved difficult to date but became recognised as the (then) earliest proof that bipedal hominids were not a recent development in the evolution of humanity.

3.6 million years ago the Laetoli footprints were made by three hominids standing straight and confidently striding on two feet each, not four. The footprints now provide a benchmark against which to assess other finds of fossilised footprints, returning to public awareness each time that the world footprint timeline is extended.

Mary Leakey: Archaeologist and Icon

A rebellious child, Mary Douglas Nicol failed to qualify for a university place, yet by the time of her death  in 1996 she had been awarded honorary doctorates by many of the greatest universities in the world, including Cambridge and Yale. She illustrated several important works on archaeology, and authored four books herself. For her work, dedication, and advances in the field, Mary is an icon and a role model to new generations of palaeontologists, archaeologists and anthropologists.



Google Blog. Mary Leakey’s 100th Birthday. (2013). Accessed February 6, 2013.

Maeve Leakey. Foreword to Rock Art Paintings of Tanzania – Africa. (2003). Accessed February 6, 2013.

Jeremy Rich. Leakey, Mary Douglas (1913–1996). (2011). Dictionary of African Biography, Edited by Emmanuel K. Akyeampong and Henry Louis Gates. Accessed February 6, 2013.

Anne I. Thackeray. Leakey, Mary Douglas (1913–1996). (2011). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Accessed February 6, 2013.

Phillip V. Tobias. In memoriam: Mary Douglas Leakey (1913-1996). (1997). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Volume 103, Issue 1. Accessed February 6, 2013.

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