Google on Wednesday celebrated the 100th birth anniversary of British archaeologist, Mary Leakey by putting up a doodle on its home page.

The doodle features Mary Leakey at an archaeological site engrossed in excavation. Like in reality, the doodle has two Dalmatians running around her. Mary, a known animal-lover, was generally accompanied in the field by three to four Dalmatians.

Interestingly, the doodle also features one of Leakey's major discoveries, "the Laetoli footprints", and some tools used in archaeology.

The first and last two letters of the word Google - G, O and L, E -are seen in the background while Mary Leakey and the Dalmatians replace the second O and second G of the word.

In 1978, six years after her husband's death, Mary Leakey made her most important discovery - footprints frozen for 3.5 million years in volcanic mud. Her discovery revealed that early hominids walked upright much earlier than previously thought.

Born on February 6 1913, Mary Leakey, despite the lack of formal archaeological training, is widely known for discovering the first fossilised Proconsul skull, an extinct ape now believed to be ancestral to humans, and the robust Zinjanthropus skull at Olduvai Gorge.

Along with her husband Louis Leakey, Mary uncovered the tools and fossils of ancient hominids.

She is also credited for developing a system for classifying the stone tools found at Olduvai, and discovering the Laetoli footprints, which received public recognition for providing convincing evidence of bipedalism in Pliocene hominids.

In 1933, she met and married Louis Leakey. The couple is also credited to have found fossils in Tanzania and Kenya that lead to the premise on man's evolution having begun in East Africa at a date far earlier than it was actually believed to be.

Despite the absence of a formal education in archaeology or palaeontology, Leakey's eye and passion guided her discoveries - the most important when she was 65.

Mary Leakey died on December 9 in 1996. She was 83.

abhishek.l@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 6, 2013)
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