Emma Mbua

Emma Mbua was the first Kenyan female paleoanthropologist . She was also the first woman to head the National Museum of Kenya’s Paleoanthropology Section, Department of Earth Sciences (Human Evolution and Paleoenvironments) where she also worked as Principal Research Scientist.

After 35 years of service, Mbua left the position but continues to serve as an Associate Researcher at the institute.  She is a part-time lecturer of Human Anatomy at the University of Nairobi and a lecturer at the Mt Kenya University. She is also the founder and Chairperson of the East African Association of Paleoanthropology and Paleontology (EAAPP), and has won numerous awards including the Mary Leakey Award for Research and Study of Human Origins.

Mbua joined the Nairobi Museum after her ‘A’ level studies as an Assistant Curator.

She studied for her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Evolutionary Anthropology at Liverpool University, after which she received her Doctorate in the same field at the University of Hamburg.

In 2014, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, an organisation dedicated to the advancement of anthropology, awarded her a post PhD research grant to facilitate research on her topic titled ‘Further Excavations at Kandis Fossil Site, a Pliocene Site on Highlands of Kenya’.

The following year she discovered human fossils believed to be 3.5 million years old in Ongata Rongai area near Nairobi. By 2016, the fossils were identified as Australopithecus afarensis. This discovery was a first to occur outside the Rift Valley basin and a first for Kenya.

Mbua hopes to establish a Diploma programme to equip learners to work as curatorial assistants with specialised expertise for handling fossils.

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