Olduvai Gorge


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LEAKEY, Mary D. Olduvai Gorge: My Search for Early Man. London: Collins, (1979). Octavo, original red paper boards, original dust jacket.

First edition of Mary Leakey's detailed account of her discovery at Olduvai Gorge—"one of the most famous fossil discoveries of all time"—inscribed by her, "M.D. Leakey Olduvai Gorge 1982," with maps and eight pages of illustrations, including a photographic plate of her discovery, the skull of Australopithecus boisei.

"Mary Leakey did so much to advance the study of ancient humans that she has been called 'the woman who found our ancestors'… Although Louis Leakey grabbed the headlines, it was his second wife, Mary, an archaeologist, who made many of the actual finds associated with the Leakey name" (Smithsonian Magazine). "In nearly 50 years of fieldwork, she discovered several species of human ancestor, including Homo habilis, an ancestor of modern humans and one of the earliest known to use stone tools… and her methods for excavation and documentation set the standard for the entire discipline" (Forbes). "Leakey disliked the limelight, deferring publicity to her husband. Her son Richard however noted that 'her commitment to detail and perfection made my father's career. He would not have been famous without her'" (ODNB).

"The site that will always be associated with Mary Leakey is Olduvai Gorge, a canyon in northern Tanzania containing rich collections of fossils and artifacts spanning about the last 2 million years… At Olduvai on July 17, 1959 she made one of the most famous fossil discoveries of all time, the skull of a 1.8 million-year-old early human relative whom Louis named Zinjanthropus (now Australopithecus or Paranthropus) boisei… The technical details of her work are published in volumes III (1971) and V (1994) of the Olduvai Gorge series of Cambridge University Press and a popular account is given in Olduvai Gorge: My Search for Early Man… She died peacefully in Nairobi on December 9, 1996, 'one of the last of a remarkable array of scholars who first exposed humanity's African past to the light of research.' In accordance with her wishes, her ashes were scattered over Lake Natron in Tanzania" (ODNB). First edition, first printing: copyright page with "First published 1979" and no statement of edition or printings. Precedes the same year's first American edition. With full-page and double-page map, full-page chart, eight pages of photographic illustrations, and numerous in-text illustrations. Small embossed owner inkstamp to title page.

Book fine; tiny abrasion to spine of about-fine price-clipped dust jacket.

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