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Fellows Directory

Alan Walker

Professor Alan Walker FRS


Elected: 1999


Alan Walker was a paleoanthropologist who studied primate and human evolution through fossilised evidence. In 1985, Alan discovered the ‘Black Skull’ near Lake Turkana in Kenya, a nearly intact fossilised cranium of an early human that has greatly influenced our understanding of the human evolutionary tree.

The Black Skull is named after its dark colouration, acquired due to resting in manganese-rich soil. Around 2.5 million years old, it belongs to an adult extinct hominin called Paranthropus aethiopicus — a subspecies on the human–primate evolutionary tree. Alan’s discovery suggests that this subspecies is, in fact, part of a distinctly divergent evolutionary branch from that of the Homo (human) lineage.

Alan was also part of the team led by Richard Leakey who, in 1984, located the so-called Turkana Boy fossil (now known as Nariokotome Boy). This specimen is a nearly complete skeleton of a male hominid who died about 1.5 million years ago, and is the most complete skeleton of an early human ever found.

Professor Alan Walker died on 20 November 2017.

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