KNM-WT 15000

The strapping youth

The ‘Turkana Boy’ skeleton has allowed scientists to find out a lot of information about body size, body shape, and growth rates of Homo erectus. This skeleton is 40% complete, based on the principle that bones from one side of the body can tell what the same bone from the other side looked like even if it’s missing.

His pelvis shows he was male. His second molars had erupted, but not his third (the wisdom teeth), indicating he was not an adult. The microscopic structure of his teeth tells us how quickly his teeth grew – and thus his age: eight or nine years old. He was 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in) tall and weighed 48 kg (106 lb) when he died; if he had reached adulthood, he might have grown only a little bit taller. Turkana Boy’s cranial capacity at death was 880 cubic centimeters, but scientists estimate it would have reached 909 cubic centimeters if he had grown into adulthood. 

His vertebrae, which form the spine, were diseased, causing a subtle curvature and probably slow movement. This may have contributed to the his death, although his cause of death at such a young age is unknown. Although he had a disability which hindered his movement, his body shows long legs and narrow shoulders typical of humans who live in hot, dry climate today. These long legs helped Homo erectus walk and possibly run long distances. Homo erectus is the first known species to spread widely within Africa and throughout Asia. 

The Turkana Boy’s species made and used stone tools. The tools known from 1.6 million years ago in the Turkana Basin included simple stone cores and flakes but also large cutting tools such as handaxes.
Image of skeleton, front view, WT 15000
KNM-WT 15000
Exhibit item
Nickname: 
Turkana Boy
Site: 
Nariokotome, West Turkana, Kenya
Date of discovery: 
1984
Discovered by: 
Kamoya Kimeu
Age: 
About 1.6 million years ago
Species: 
Homo erectus
Text: 
<bold>The strapping youth</bold> This <italic>Homo erectus</italic> youth lived in a hot, dry part of East Africa near an ancient marsh. His teeth indicate that he grew up quickly, at a rate similar to that of a living great ape. His is one of the most complete early human skeletons ever found.