The Gang Hits Again

Those famed Leakey fossil hunters add a new limb to our family tree

Like other members of the famous "hominid gang," the sharp-eyed fossil hunters employed by paleontology's Leakey family, Justus Erus spends three months a year scouring the dry, bone-rich riverbeds around Lake Turkana, in northern Kenya. It is a scrubby, desolate landscape, where the people are desperately poor and gun-toting young men are a menacing presence. But it is hallowed ground to scientists because of the clues it offers to early human history. Still, even after five years, Erus, a 30-year-old Turkana tribesman, had scored nary a hit--just bits of ancient animal bones and teeth.

Then one scorching morning during the...

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