Bones of Turkana (PBS/National Geographic, 2012) - Documentary Movie Review for Teachers
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Bones of Turkana
Educative Value: 8/10
PBS Logo
Release date: May, 2012 (U.S.A.)
Reviewer: Ms. Fox
Length: 57 minutes
Age Appropriateness Rating: This public television documentary is suitable for all ages.  Its content is best aimed at students of high school age and older.
Creators and Stars: Helene Roche, Ikal Angelei, John Heminway, Katie Carpenter, Kenyan Boys Choir, Louise Leakey, Marta Mirazon Lahr, Meave Leakey, Paul Simon, Richard Leakey, Sonja Harmand
Accuracy: "The Bones of Turkana" features up-to-date scientific information from leading experts, as well as firsthand accounts of historical and current events.
Review: "The Bones of Turkana" is not simply one documentary, but several documentaries rolled into one.  It is simultaneously the story of human evolution, the history of paleo-anthropology at Africa's Lake Turkana, and a look at contemporary conservation politics, among other things, all set against a biography of Richard Leakey.  Rather than confuse viewers by hopping from one topic to the next, director John Heminway blends each story thread well enough that instead of being befuddled, viewers will be constantly glued to their screens.  The documentary's short segments work well for adolescent attention spans.

I strongly recommend viewing "The Bones of Turkana" during the study of world prehistory.  This 57-minute documentary film gives students up-to-date information on the search for human origins.  It acquaints them with Richard Leakey and the work of his family, and uses simple language to explain the difficulties involved in determining where a particular fossil fits into the hominid family tree.  The career of Richard Leakey (both professional and political) provides a lot of background knowledge on current African and world politics that will help students when they learn about modern Africa later in their coursework.

The film's music is performed by Paul Simon and the Kenyan Boys Choir.


Sierra Club Article on Richard Leakey

Turkana Basin Institute

Bones of Turkana on PBS

Genographic Project

Vocabulary Terms: amputation; ancestor; arid; Australopithecus anamensis; biped; bipedalism; butchering; diversity; evolution; flaking; fossiliferous; fossils; fragments; genetics; Homo erectus; Homo habilis; Homo sapiens; ivory; Kenya; Kenyanthropus platyops; Lake Turkana; language; mandible; paleoanthropology; pelorovis; Richard Leakey; toolmaking; Turkana Boy
"Bones of Turkana" Review Publication Date for Citation Purposes: May 7, 2012