Today, August 01 2021, Google changed its Search Engine Logo in honour of the Nariokotome Boy discovered in Kenya in 1984. Since 1998, Google temporarily changes the logo on its home page to a doodle to commemorate a holiday, event, achievement or notable historical figure. Today’s is honouring the so-called cradle of humankind. Nariokotome boy, also known as KNM-WT 15000, was discovered by Kamoya Kimeu on the bank of the Nariokotome River near Lake Turkana. To date, this specimen marks the closest scientist have come to a complete skeleton of early humans. A Homo ergaster, Nariokotome Boy, lived 1.5 to 1.6 million years ago in Nariokotome and died aged about 11 years.

Scientists initially suspected that Turkana Boy might have died from a congenital disorder, either dwarfism or scoliosis. They suspected skeletal dysplasia might have caused his rib bones to appear asymmetrical to the spine. A 2013 study, however, showed that the rib bones became symmetrical against the spine when rearranged. The study also attributed the unusual structure of the vertebrae as a characteristic of the early hominins. Today most think the observed lumbar disc herniation may have led to Nariokotome Boy’s death. As Google celebrates the Turkana human, many questions still linger about him:

How Old Was He?

Estimates of the age at death vary depending on whether one uses the maturity stage of the teeth or skeleton. It also depends on whether that maturity gets compared to modern humans or chimpanzees. Alan Walker and Richard Leakey, in 1993, estimated the boy was about 11–12 years old based on known rates of bone maturity. They both insist that dental dating often gives a younger age than a person’s actual age. Meanwhile, Christopher Dean of University College London estimated that Nariokotome Boy was eight years old at death.

What Makes us Think He Was Male?

The shape of the human pelvis differs in males and females. Using this fact, one can hence determine the gender of a fossil. However, since Turkana Boy was still in his prepubescent age, it is challenging to decide on his gender with certainty. At that age, boys and girls have not even developed secondary sex characteristics! So while many consider Nariokotome Boy, a boy, he may equally be a girl!

Next time you visit Nariokotome, perhaps, your bucket list would include finding the answers to these questions! You may want to phone up Kamoya Kimeu or Sammy Lokorodi to help. Sammy is the one who discovered the oldest stone tools known to man – still in the same area.