Archaeologist Meave Leakey to speak at Bloomsburg University

For immediate release: March 17, 2008

BLOOMSBURG — Meave Leakey has contributed to some of the most significant studies in human origin during four decades as an archaeologist.

Leakey, who is described as both a paleontologist – a scientist who studies prehistory life forms – and a paleoanthropologist – a scientist who studies ancient humans, will discuss her personal experiences in excavation and archaeology on Tuesday, April 1, at 7 p.m. at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania’s Haas Center for the Arts, Mitrani Hall. During the talk, “My Life in Science: An Evening with Meave Leakey,” she will share real-life stories of her fieldwork in Africa and her personal experiences from nearly 40 years as a paleontologist and anthropologist. The program, offered as part of BU’s Provost’s Lecture Series, is open to the public free of charge.

Meave Leakey is a member of the Leakey family “that’s found some of the most important human ancestral artifacts of the past century,” said Susan Dauria, chair of BU’s anthropology department. “The Leakey family has helped define archaeological research, and Meave Leakey is one of the premiere paleontologists in the world right now.”

She is best known for her 1999 discovery of a 3.5 million-year-old skull believed to belong to a new branch of early human ancestors. The discovery was announced in 2001 in the journal Nature and received front page attention in The New York Times, which stated the discovery “threatens to overturn the prevailing view that a single line of descent stretched through the early stages of human ancestry.”

Born in London, Leakey obtained a doctoral degree in zoology from the University of North Wales in 1968. She became involved with the Leakey family in 1965 when she took a staff position at the Tigoni Primate Research Centre in Kenya. In 1970, she married paleontologist Richard Leakey and, when her husband left his position as director of the National Museums of Kenya in 1989, Meave Leakey became the coordinator of the museum’s field research in the Turkana basin.

Leakey was head of the National Museums’ division of paleontology from 1982 to 2001 and is currently a research affiliate of the National Museums. She is also a National Geographic explorer-in-residence. Since 1998, Leakey has co-led archaeological expeditions with her daughter, Louise Leakey, focusing on the first human ancestor to move out of Africa.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Professional Studies, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.