KNM-WT 15000 (Turkana Boy)
KNM-WT 15000, "Turkana Boy", Homo erectus (or Homo ergaster)
Discovered by Kamoya Kimeu in 1984 at Nariokotome near Lake Turkana in
Kenya (Brown et al.1985; Leakey and Lewin, 1992; Walker and Leakey, 1993).
This is an almost complete skeleton of an 11 or 12 year old boy, the only
major omissions being the hands and feet. (Some scientists believe
erectus matured faster than modern humans, and that he was really
about 9 years old (Leakey and Lewin 1992).) It is the most complete known
specimen of H. erectus, and also one of the oldest, at 1.6 million
years. The brain size was 880 cc, and it is estimated that it would have
been 910 cc at adulthood (a modern human of comparable size would be
expected to have a brain size of about 1350 cc). The boy was 160 cm
(5'3") tall, and estimates are that he might have been about 185 cm
(6'1") as an adult. Except for the skull, the skeleton is very
similar to that of modern boys, although there are a number of
small differences. The most striking is that the holes
in his vertebrae, through which the spinal cord goes, have only about
half the cross-sectional area found in modern humans.
One suggested explanation for this is that the boy lacked the fine motor control we have in the thorax to control speech, implying that he wasn't nearly as fluent a speaker as modern humans are (Walker and Shipman 1996).
In the 1988 video Mysteries of Mankind, produced by National
Geographic, Richard Leakey talks about this fossil:
"I think [the Turkana Boy] is remarkable because it's so complete, but
perhaps another aspect that is often overlooked is that many people who
don't like the idea of human evolution have been able to discount much of
the work that we've done on the basis that it's built on fragmentary
evidence. There have just been bits and pieces, and who knows, those
little bits of bone could belong to anything. To confront some of these
people with a complete skeleton that is human and is so obviously related
to us in a context where it's definitely one and a half million years or
even more is fairly convincing evidence, and I think many of the people who
are fence-sitters on this discussion about creationism vs. evolution are
going to have to get off the fence in the light of this discovery."
Creationist arguments about Homo erectus
Compare the Turkana Boy with Java Man
Compare the Turkana Boy with Peking Man
This page is part of the Fossil Hominids FAQ at the talk.origins Archive.
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