‘Leanderthal Lady’ lives on decades after her discovery

Archeologists uncovered Leanne the Leanderthal Lady in 1982. She was not old enough to be a Neanderthal.

Archeologists uncovered Leanne the Leanderthal Lady in 1982. She was not old enough to be a Neanderthal.

Image description
‘Leanderthal Lady’ lives on decades after her discovery
Image description
‘Leanderthal Lady’ lives on decades after her discovery
Image description
‘Leanderthal Lady’ lives on decades after her discovery
It was nearing the end of December 1982 when Karen Thompson got the call.

Prior to the construction of RM 1431 in Cedar Park, archeologists from the Texas Department of Transportation uncovered the remains of a human female born thousands of years ago. Thompson, a local historian, headed to the scene.


“I got up there and they had pretty much covered it with plastic or something to be sure nothing happened to it,” Thompson said. “They were wanting everyone to stand back and get away.”


The discovery turned out to be one of the oldest and most complete human skeleton finds in North America, according to Texas Beyond History, a service of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas at Austin. Carbon dating found she was 10,000-13,000 years old. Due to her proximity to the city of Leander, she became known as the “Leanderthal Lady.” Today, her legacy continues in local commerce and through a historical marker.


“We need to have a feeling of what [life was like] back then,” said Thompson, who is chair of the Leander Historical Preservation Commission. “It gives us a great sense of belonging to a certain community.”


Many Leander drivers pass the Leanderthal Lady historical plaque on US 183 every day. It says Leanne, as she is often nicknamed, was about 5 feet, 3 inches tall and around age 30 at the time of her death. About six miles northwest from where she was found, the marker declares “the site is a valuable source of information on the nation’s prehistoric past.”


Though little is known about the life Leanne led, certain clues give insight into what her existence may have been like. Thompson said she was buried with great care. Several objects were found laid around her including a grinding stone—a tool she likely used to grind some type of grains—and a shark’s tooth.


“I guess a shark’s tooth means that they were down by the coast, or somebody killed a shark and brought it up here to give or trade with the Indians here,” Thompson said.


The site where she was found is called the Wilson-Leonard Brushy Creek Site, located in southwestern Williamson County. TxDOT discovered the site in the 1970s during a survey of the area in advance of the extension of RM 1431 to I-35. The site contains evidence from ancient people throughout prehistoric time periods in Texas, according to Texas Beyond History.


Thompson said Brushy Creek drew ancient dwellers due to the resources it provided: tree limbs to build fire, rocks to make tools, clams to eat and water to drink.


Flash forward to 2019 and the story of the Leanderthal Lady is inscribed on every bottle of vodka Scott Calame began producing in 2016. An avid homebrewer, Calame started selling Leanderthal Vodka through his company Square Peg Distilling.


“I will joke that ‘Leanderthal’ is ... what people in Austin refer to people who live in Leander as,” Calame said. “So when I had the opportunity to name our vodka Leanderthal Vodka and give a tip of the hat to Leanne and that discovery, it was also sort of reclaiming that term on behalf of Leander.”


Calame changed the name of his company to Leanderthal Distilling in 2018. The company registered a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the name “Leanderthal.” Calame said naming “[his] spirits after [Leanne’s spirit]” is a way of honoring the discovery.


“Most of the people I encounter have heard the name, but they don’t know the history,” Calame said. “We embraced the history and did the research. We didn’t invent the term [Leanderthal], but we are acknowledging how it did actually get invented.”


These days Leanne the Leanderthal Lady is kept at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory at The University of Texas’ J.J. Pickle Research Campus in Austin.

SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

(Courtesy Casamigos)
Casamigos Tex-Mex plans to open in Leander by Nov. 22

Casamigos Tex-Mex plans to be open by Nov. 22, according to restaurant owner Christoper Rodriguez.

The Bell Boulevard realignment project will relocate the stretch of Bell Boulevard between Buttercup Creek Boulevard and Cedar Park Drive to the alignment of Old Highway 183. (Marisa Charpentier/Community Impact Newspaper)
Cedar Park moves forward with Bell Boulevard realignment utility relocation

The Bell Boulevard realignment project in Cedar Park is going to require a substantial utility relocation.

Greg Kelley, a former Leander High School student whose 2014 conviction was recently overturned, told members of the press after the Cedar Park City Council meeting Nov. 14 that he wants the Cedar Park police chief and sergeant who worked on his case to be held accountable for what happened to him. (Marisa Charpentier/Community Impact Newspaper.
Greg Kelley supporters address Cedar Park City Council, call for police department accountability

After his conviction was overturned Nov. 6, Greg Kelley and his supporters attended a Cedar Park City Council meeting Nov. 14.

Lady Bird Lake at Congress Avenue in Austin. Since late July, parts of the lake have been off limits due to high concentrations of toxic "blue-green" algae. (Courtesy Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune)
Toxic algae blooms are becoming more common, scientists say

Months have passed, but the capital city still has signs up warning of ongoing dangerous conditions in Lady Bird Lake.

Driver's Edge Complete Tire and Auto Service, at 3510 Lakeline Blvd., Leander, is now Lamb's Tire and Automotive. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Leander vehicle service business changes name to Lamb's Tire and Auto

Driver's Edge Complete Tire and Auto Service, at 3510 Lakeline Blvd., Leander, is now Lamb's Tire and Automotive

Crews work on updating a section of I-35 in Central Texas (Courtesy TxDOT)
Central Texas transportation agencies investing millions in I-35 for new lanes, intersection improvements aimed at aiding mobility

About 20 miles of I-35 through Central Texas will see an infusion of $400 million in state and federal funding to add one to two additional lanes in an effort to improve mobility.

Savvy Chix Studio offers sewing classes for kids and adults. (Courtesy Savvy Chix Studio)
Savvy Chix Studio now offering sewing classes in Leander area

Savvy Chix Studio opened in Leander on Oct. 30.

Leander Middle School Principal Mark Koller is pictured in the LMS dance studio in this August file photo. (Brian Perdue/Community Impact Newspaper)
Koller hired as principal at new Danielson Middle School

The Leander ISD board of trustees has hired Mark Koller as the first principal at Danielson Middle School.

Deece Eckstein at the Nov. 12 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting
Travis County intergovernmental relations officer announces retirement, triggers "aggressive" hiring schedule

Deece Eckstein, Travis County's inaugural intergovernmental relations officer, will retire at the end of the year.

Collectors Crossroads is opening in the Lakeline Plaza Shopping Center on Nov. 22. (Courtesy Collectors Crossroads)
Pinballz owner to open collectibles shop in Lakeline Plaza

Collectors Crossroads is opening in the Lakeline Plaza Shopping Center on Nov. 22.

MaidPro North Austin is now located in the Silver Spur Business Park in Cedar Park. (Marisa Charpentier/Community Impact Newspaper)
MaidPro North Austin relocates from Leander to Cedar Park

MaidPro North Austin is a professional home cleaning service.

Back to top