Richard Leakey commissions new museum in Turkana

Early design ideas show a cluster of irregularly-shaped buildings inspired by Stone Age hand axes and other tools unearthed nearby

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Richard Leakey commissions new museum in Turkana
An ancient skull discovered in 2012 in Turkana. (Marta Mirazon Lahr, enhanced by Fabio Lahr). Photo: Smithsonian.com

World-renowned paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey has commissioned a major museum in the arid Northern Kenya.

Leakey, famous for discovering the most complete skeleton of an early human known as Turkana Boy says that upon completion the museum would become a magnet drawing tourists to one of the least-visited areas on Earth.

The museum will be constructed at Lake Turkana, 400 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, near the border with Ethiopia, where palaeontologists including Leakey and his teams have found many of the best-preserved fossils of man’s ancient ancestors.

In 2012, at Nataruk, west of Kenya’s Lake Turkana, researchers discovered smashed bones identifying at least 27 individuals on the edge of a depression that they say were victims of clan rivalry fighting for food and water.

The fossilized bodies were dated by radiocarbon dating and other techniques, as well as from samples of the shells and sediment surrounding them, to approximately 9,500 to 10,500 years ago.

Daniel Libeskind The architect who rebuilt the World Trade Center in New York is tasked with designing the new museum celebrating human evolution.

“I took Libeskind up to Turkana and had him see the place and listen to me chat, after which I asked, ‘can we do something here that will absolutely stand-alone and wow?’,” Mr leaky told the Independent.

Richard Leakey commissions new museum in Turkana
Lake Turkana area where the museum will be built. The area has been identified as cradle of man.

Early design ideas show a cluster of irregularly-shaped buildings inspired by Stone Age hand axes and other tools unearthed nearby. The central hall rises 15-storeys above the desert. The site’s footprint’s shape is the outline of the African continent.

But Turkana is inhabited by nomads with poor road infrastructure with rampant cases of cattle-stealing posing a potential threat to the museum.

However Leakey is sure these difficulties will be overcome. The Turkana County government, which fully supports his vision, has committed to upgrading roads and building an airport to take passenger jets. Libeskind is planning a building run entirely from renewable energy with a zero-carbon footprint, Leakey said.

Asked about why Turkana was such an important area for human evolution researchers  Mr Leaky replied “The geology and the history of Turkana means we can trace the human story from basically today continuously back to just under five million years ago in one place.