As a boy, Tim White loved roaming California's San Bernardino Mountains, hunting for Indian arrowheads or other relics of the past. Today, his hunting ground is a vast and remote area of East Africa, where he searches for the distant ancestors of the human race. For over 20 years, he has led expeditions in the Afar desert of Ethiopia, where time has opened a great rift in the Earth, spreading layers of sediment like the pages of a book, a geological account of the past, for those who can read it.
In 2009, Tim White announced his greatest discovery, the almost complete skeleton of a diminutive proto-human creature who lived 4.4 million years ago. Nicknamed "Ardi," she is "the oldest known link in the evolutionary chain" that connects humankind and the great apes to our remote common ancestor.
Ardi and her species, Ardipithecus ramidus, could walk on all fours like apes, and their feet sported thumb-like big toes for tree-climbing, but they could also walk upright like modern man. The cooperative food-gathering made possible by upright walking may have been decisive in the development of the human family unit. Tim White's discoveries allow us to look back in time, and discover what makes human beings human.