Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 30, 2011

Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) skeleton

November 30, 1974: Lucy (Australopithecus) is discovered in the Middle Awash of the Ethiopian Afar Depression. Her scientific designation is AL-288-1 and she is a 40% complete skeleton who lived about 3.2 million years ago. Maurice Taieb found the Hadar Formation in 1972 and then formed the International Afar Research Expedition in order to search the area. He invited Donald Johanson from Arizona State University and Yves Coppens from Collège de France to help run the expeditions.

Four Americans and seven Frenchmen searched for fossils and artifacts around Hadar, Ethiopia in November of 1973 and found some bones that showed that the owner had been used to walking in an upright, hominid manner. The bones were more than 3 million years old. They returned the next year and worked a site about 1.5 miles from the previous year’s dig. They found Lucy, so named because The Beatle’s song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was played over and over while the scientists unearthed the fossils.

Australopithecus is thought to be the last common ancestor to both humans and chimpanzees and lived 3.9-3 million years ago. More fossils and artifacts have been found since the 1970s, but none as complete as Lucy. Johanson and Lucy returned to Cleveland,Ohio after the dig was completed. After nine years of further study, Lucy returned to Africa where she is preserved at the National Museum of Ethiopia at Addis Ababa. A plaster cast of the fossils is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Australopithecus afarensis is a species that falls into two categories, early and late. The first afarensis group is found at Laetoli and Belohdelie and dates from 3.9-3.5 million years ago. The second group is from Hadar and Maka and dates from 3.5-2.96 million years ago. Both early and late afarensis were bipedal. This is surmised from both bone structure and fossilized footprints. Dentition (teeth) and post-crania (skull) show links to an evolutionary path that are important to scientists.

“If you believe in evolution you can trace all of our lower back problems to the time when the first hominid stood erect.” – Dr. Hugo A. Keim

“If we are going to teach creation science as an alternative to evolution, then we should also teach the stork theory as an alternative to biological reproduction.” – Judith Hayes

“Evolution is not a force but a process. Not a cause but a law.” – John Morley

“My theory of evolution is that Darwin was adopted.” – Stephen Wright

Also on this day:
I’ll Take Television for $200, Alex – In 2004, Ken Jennings finally lost at Jeopardy! after winning over $2.5 million.
100 Miles Per Hour – In 1934, the Flying Scotsman reached a speed of 100 mph.