Alesi: The Life, Death, and Discovery of an Ancestor
Walter Payton College Prep High School
1034 N. Wells St. Auditorium
60610 Chicago , IL
United States
41° 54' 5.9652" N, 87° 38' 6.4536" W
Life Sciences

Alesi: The Life, Death, and Discovery of an Ancestor

Alesi: The Life, Death, and Discovery of an Ancestor
Alesi after attached sandstone rock was partially removed at the Turkana Basin Insitute, near Lodwar, Kenya. © Isaiah Nengo, Photo by Christopher Kiarie.

The recent discovery of a 13 million-year-old fossil infant ape skull has offered a rare glimpse of what the common ancestor of all living apes and humans may have looked like. The fossil, nicknamed “Alesi,” belongs to a newly named species called Nyanzapithecus alesi. Alesi was discovered in a desolate region of Kenya by John Ekusi, a member of Dr. Isaiah Nengo’s research team. In this talk, Dr. Nengo will share the story of finding this rare fossil and discuss the secrets that cutting-edge technology has uncovered about the life of this ancient infant.


Akai Ekes and John Ekusi watch as Isaiah Nengo lifts the sandstone block with Alesi after six hours of excavation. © Isaiah Nengo.


Isaiah Nengo, Ph.D., was born in Nairobi, Kenya. He holds a BS in Zoology and Botany from the University of Nairobi and a PhD in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University. He is an associate director and research professor at the Turkana Basin Institute, Stony Brook University. He was Fulbright Scholar at the National Museums of Kenya and the University of Nairobi in 2012/13. Dr. Nengo’s research focuses on the search for the ancestors of apes and humans in Africa. He is the recipient of five Leakey Foundation Research Grants. 


This program presented in partnership with The Leakey Foundation.

DETAILS: Thursday, October 12, 6:00 p.m., Walter Payton College Prep High School, Auditorium, 1034 N. Wells St., Chicago, IL 60610. This program is free and open to the public, but advanced registration recommended.
Register using the "get tickets" button below. Walter Payton College Prep, a selective enrollment high school that is part of the Chicago Public School system, is located in the Old Town neighborhood, just minutes from Michigan Avenue and downtown Chicago, and is easily accessible via public transportation. 
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COVER IMAGE: Alesi, the skull of the new extinct ape species Nyanzapithecus alesi (KNM-NP 59050). © Fred Spoor.
For more on Isaiah Nengo and this discovery, listen to The Leaky Foundation podcast, Origin Stories.
Read the original journal article about Alesi in Nature.
Read more about the Alesi discovery in the popular press, with coverage in the Washington Post, Business Insider, and National Geographic.