In 1968, in the barren Ethiopian land of Hadar, Maurice Taieb, a Frenchman with his team of experts, struck gold in their discovery of a female hominid that was dubbed as our earliest human ancestor.
The find was named “Lucy” in reference to the famous Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which was playing during a celebration of the archeological breakthrough.
Scientifically termed “Austrolopithecus afarensis” (the species name is derived from the “Afar” depression where Lucy was found), the discovery of “Lucy” brought about excitement to the world of anthropology and to the general public as well.
Believed to have existed over 3.2 million years ago, this specimen has relatively long arms similar to an ape’s, but with a pelvis, spine, leg bones and feet that were suitable for upright walking.
These traits brought about the theory that humans may have descended from this hominid.
Reconstruction of Lucy’s face using her skull as a base revealed interesting features. She had a sharp and pronounced forehead, wide and strong cheekbones, and a protruding jaw, very much like a midget female orangutan, but with finer features.
Although only 40% of Lucy’s bones were recovered, a substantial amount of information has been derived by scientists regarding Lucy’s life.
For one, we know that she was about 3½ feet tall. The presence of wisdom teeth and evidence of their use, as well as a fully developed skull, depicts Lucy as being an adult.
The fact that Lucy was female was further confirmed upon the discovery of the bones of males of her species.
Like the Beatles song, Lucy was a hit in the international press—the Anthropological Society’s toast and pride.
Lucy was certainly a big step toward proving man’s common ancestral ties with apes. She was hailed as Science’s “Eve,” but was she the elusive “missing link?”
More on that theory would be exposed in 1994, when “Ardi” was found. But that, of course, is another story entirely (to continue, click here).
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