Man Who Discovered Turkana Boy Dies

When he made his well-known discoveries, Kamoya was working with the Leakey family.

Fossil of 1.6 million-year-old Turkana Boy.

Turkana Boy passed away 1.6 million years ago.

The 81-year-old man who discovered Kenya’s most well-known fossil passed away last Thursday.

He was the discoverer of the nearly complete Homo erectus skeleton designated KNM-WT 15000, also known as Turkana or Nariokotome Boy.

It was the most complete fossil ever discovered.

His daughter Jennifer Kamoya made the announcement of his passing.

He was mourned by Kenya’s National Museums as well.

“We are mourning the loss of our friend and colleague who was undoubtedly the best fossil hunter the world has ever had,” NMK said in a statement.

When he made his well-known discoveries, Kamoya was working with the Leakey family.

Kamoya Kimeu, who found an almost complete Homo erectus skeleton

He had been experiencing health issues since the beginning of this month and was admitted to a Nairobi hospital with kidney problems.

Before he passed away, a gofundme account set up by Richard Leakey’s daughter Louise for his medical expenses had already raised Sh1.4 million in just 24 hours.

Kamoya leaves behind his wife Mary Mbiki, along with their children Steve, Boniface, Jacinta Syokau, John Kilonzo, Jenniffer Mwelu, and Nicholas Makau.

“Always with a jovial smile, positive attitude and extraordinary resolve to get through difficult situations, his perseverance and leadership led to the many important fossil discoveries both of animals and hominins at Lake Turkana.

“He was a mentor to many who have followed in his path. He will be greatly missed,” Louise Leakey said in a commentary on the GoFundMe page.

In recognition of his significant contributions to the field of paleoanthropology, Case Western University recently presented Kamoya with an honorary degree.

In addition to exploring the Turkana Basin and leading the field teams between 1969 and 2000, he collaborated with Louis and Mary Leakey at Olduvai.

According to the Leakey Foundation, he was 21 years old when Louis Leakey (Richard Leakey’s father) asked him to join his expedition as a field assistant at Olduvai in 1960.

Leakey’s job description noted “digging for bones,” and at first he assumed that meant digging up graves. “At the time, we were unaware of the existence of hominid bones.

“I thought we were coming to dig some graves of dead people,” Kimeu recalled, according to excerpts on the Foundation’s website.

Louis, who enthusiastically explained the work to be done in fluent Kikuyu, won Kimeu’s trust. And this was the beginning of Kamoya Kimeu’s legendary fossil hunting career.

Richard Leakey also remarked on Kamoya’s extraordinary talent for discovering fossils from all kinds of creatures, including elephants and australopithecines, before he passed away in January of this year.

 “To some of our visitors who are inexperienced in fossil-hunting, there is something almost magical in the way Kamoya or one of his team can walk up a slope that is apparently littered with nothing more than pebbles and pick up a small fragment of black, fossili`ed bone, announcing that it is, say, part of the upper forelimb of an antelope. It is not magic, but an invaluable accumulation of skill and knowledge,” he said.

Kamoya had found a significant number of fossils before he retired.

The Peninj Mandible, an entire Paranthropus boisei mandible that was later determined to be an Australopithecus boisei, was discovered by Kimeu, Richard Leakey, and Glynn Isaac in January 1964 at the Peninj site near Lake Natron in Tanzania.

Kimeu found an early Homo sapiens skull in 1968 while traveling with Richard once more in Ethiopia’s Omo valley.