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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Returning Zinj: curating human origins in twentieth-century Tanzania
Author:Staniforth, Amy
Periodical:Journal of Eastern African Studies
Geographic term:Tanzania
human evolution
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/17531050902717203
Abstract:The discovery in 1959 of the fossil fragments that would become the 'Zinjanthropus boisei' skull propelled Olduvai Gorge, the Leakey family, and the search for human origins into the glare of the world's media. This triumvirate has remained in the public eye ever since, placing the discovery of 'Zinj' at the very heart of the understanding of the archaeologists' quest to uncover the deep history of human kind. This article traces the biography of the 'Zinjanthropus boisei' skull from its discovery in 1959 to its incarnation in current public discourse in eastern Africa, half a century on. First, it resituates the scientific endeavour that brought Zinj to us within its historical context, and then examines the combination of materiality and iconographic reproduction that has shaped our view of the skull and its story. The experience of the National Museum of Tanzania, in terms of its own wider institutional history and its specific curatorship of Zinj, allows historians to critically assess the importance of palaeoanthropology in East Africa in its overlapping local, regional and transnational spheres. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]