Straddling the Evolutionary Divide
Just west of Lake Turkana in northwestern Kenya, the rocky, arid terrain of the desert badlands, like a southern New Mexico landscape, can wear a hiker down very quickly. Without ample water supply, dehydration becomes one’s worst enemy. Temperatures typically vary between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit with little available shade. Venomous snakes and scorpions abound. Malaria is not uncommon among those who live and work here. For Sammy Lokorodi, a local Turkana tribesman who is a resident of these parts, this is a familiar and livable landscape. He is also, among other things, a fossil and artifact hunter. As an integral part of scientific field expeditions, he has been specially trained by experience to see and excavate fossils and artifacts that likely could be millions of years old, teasing them from a surrounding matrix of desert rock and soil that, to anyone with an untrained eye, would make them unrecognizable. On any given day, this would be routine for Lokorodi.
But one day in 2011, while working as a member of the field team for the West Turkana Archaeological Project (WTAP), he found himself front-and-center in a discovery that would end up raising new questions with far-reaching implications about the human evolutionary past. Read more.