Ancient Man Louis Leakey's Handyman Homo Habilis Part 1

About the ancient man homo habilis or the handyman according to paleontologist Louis Leakey, history and behavior of this species related to man.


HANDYMAN (Homo habilis)

Louis Leakey, who died in 1972, made significant contributions to the tracing of human lineage. Brought up in Kenya by missionary parents, Leakey as a youth was interested in finding evidence of early man in Africa, wielded a shovel as easily as a theory, and in contradiction to the popular stereotype of an introverted scientist was an affable, personable individual who did a great deal to popularize paleontology and to help others in the field. With his wife, Mary, he sought fossils for years without success in Olduvai Gorge, a 350-ft. canyon in Tanzania with exposed layers of many stratified fossils. It was not until 1959 that Mary made their first find, Zinjanthropus boisei.

In 1961 they discovered a 1.75-million-year-old jawbone of a juvenile. Later, they found other parts of the skeleton--a skull and very modern-appearing hands. They called the creature "Handyman" (Homo habilis), for they believed him to be a tool-user (a hypothesis supported by later findings).

It is not yet certain, however, where Handyman belongs in the hierarchy of ape to man (which is not as clear-cut as paleontologists once thought). Handyman had a brain slightly larger than what may have been his predecessor, Australopithecus africanus, but it still wasn't much bigger--more in the gorilla than in the man category. And from this comes a puzzle: If he was so small-brained, then how was he able to make and use tools? Is it possible, as some modern anthropologists think, that hominids developed their brains by using tools rather than the other way around? That tools, not big brains, came first?

Handyman and his associates were small; males stood from 4 ft. 5 in. to 5ft. and weighted from 80 to 100 lb.; females were smaller. They stood upright, roamed in groups of about a dozen, and sometimes stayed for several days in one place. Labor was shared; the females and children hunted vegetables and small game, while the males were protectors and hunters of larger game. They may have made windbreaks.

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