Lucy’s back in town.
AL 288-1, aka Lucy, was discovered in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia in 1974. The hundreds of little pieces add up to about 40% of the skeleton of a 3.2 million year old female Australopithecus afarensis. She was named after the Beatles song that the paleontologists were listening to at their camp (among the team was one of my Berkeley anthro professors, Tim White; you know how we love the Beatles in Berkeley).
Lucy’s been on tour in the US for five years but on May 7 she returned to her permanent home at the National Museum here in Addis Ababa. We went to see her this weekend.
To the dismay of a few of us in the party, Lucy’s back, but she’s not on display. The real fossil bones are locked away in a secure storage room. What’s in the case is a replica. The guard wasn’t really able to explain why this is. I suppose maybe they don’t have the proper security, though I don’t know why someone would steal this. For ransom, maybe. There is a history of locking up the national treasures here – the Ark of the Covenant is believed to be in an ancient church in Axum (northern Ethiopia), but no one can look at it except one person, the Guardian of the Ark.
In 2009, while Lucy was on tour, paleontologists dug up even older bones. Ardi predates Lucy by just over a million years. Like Lucy, she lived in Ethiopia, but I cannot tell you where she is now.