Disclosing the Past Essay - Critical Essays

Mary Nicol


All archaeologists are naturally concerned about history, and Leakey’s decision to write her autobiography was prompted, at least partly, by her decision to record the events surrounding some of her important archaeological finds. In the preface to her book, she points out that much of her previous writing had been very specialized and technical. This book is written for the nonscientist, “the rest of the world to whom the information also belongs.”

Anyone who has read the many National Geographic magazine articles or has seen the National Geographic television specials about her knows that Mary Leakey led a very unusual life. Some would see her as an unusual person, one who often put science, and even her animals, above other people. For example, very few people would choose to dedicate the story of their lives to an animal. Nevertheless, Leakey’s dedication at the beginning of Disclosing the Past reads: “To the Dalmatians, past and present, who have so greatly enriched my life with their companionship, intelligence and loyalty.”

Although she intentionally gives few scientific details, there is no question that Leakey’s work was her life; her need to find more and learn more always came first. In describing the birth of her first child, she writes, “I quite liked having a baby—I think I won’t put it more strongly than that—but I had no intention of allowing motherhood to disrupt my work as an archaeologist.” Every aspect of her life was affected by her work. Mary and Louis even decided to have another child as a way of celebrating the discovery of the famous “Proconsul” skull.


(The entire section is 680 words.)