History : Jan-Feb 2019
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 5 carvedcoloredstones.Re- searchers wereintrigued tofindanornateheadpiece decoratedwith405gerbilin- cisors.Thegravegoodswere evenlydistributedamong thebodies,withnosignof socialhierarchy.Mostmon- umentalancientburialsites werereservedfortheelite, whichwouldmakeLothagam unusual.Futureexplorations ofthelargersitewillneedto delveintotheimplicationsof theseinitialfinds. Winds of Change Analysissuggeststhatthe moundmayhavebeenbuilt some5,000yearsago,when Lake Turkana was much largerandrainfallabundant. Inthecomingcenturies,the climatechanged,andthelake begantorecede.Astheland- scapetransformedaround the community, herding replacedfishingasasource offood.Tothelocalpeoples, thecommunalcemeteryat LothagamNorthwouldhave stoodasabeaconofconti- nuityinachangingworld. LEGACY AT THE LAKE FIVE THOUSAND YEARS may seem like a long time ago. The 5,000-year-old Lothagam North necropolis certainly seems ancient, but the region around Lake Turkana (the world’s largest, permanent desert lake) has been home to communities that extend back to the dawn of humanity itself. In 1994 National Geographic explorer-in-residence Maeve Leakey unearthed a fossil of a hominid (Australopithecus anamensis) who lived around 4.2 to 3.9 million years ago. Study of the fossil found the creature had walked on two feet, and that hominids had developed bipedalism earlier than previously thought. Near the lake in 1984, Kenyan paleontologist Ka- moya Kimeu found a fossil of Homo erec- tus who lived 1.5 to 1.6 million years ago. Believed to be a boy about eight or nine years old, the fossil was nicknamed Turkana Boy. It is the most complete hominid skeleton found to date. elderlywereamongthissmall sample;evidencesuggests thatgenerationaftergener- ationofherdersreturnedto thisplacetoburytheirdead overhundredsofyears. Theteam alsofounda cacheofremarkableartifacts atthesite,includingpieces ofpottery,braceletsmadeof hippotusks,andintricately TURKANA BOY’S SKULL HELPED ANTHROPOLOGISTS DETERMINE HIS AGE AT THE TIME OF DEATH. RICHARDDUTOIT/AGEFOTOSTOCKBRENTSTIRTON/GETTYIMAGESKATHERINEGRILLO/PNASPNAS LAKE TURKANA, KENYA. IN THE FOREGROUND IS THE NABIYOTUM CRATER. THIS UNIQUE HEADDRESS FOUND AMONG THE BURIALS IS ADORNED WITH 405 GERBIL TEETH.