Archaeology: Lucy, world’s oldest, returns to Ethiopia

By Elissa Jobson in Addis Ababa

Posted on September 10, 2013 14:43

Welcome home Lucy’ read the banners adorning the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, where the 3.2m-year-old skeleton of an early human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, was on display at the beginning of May.

Lucy, or Dinknesh (meaning ‘you are amazing’ in Amharic), had returned from a five-year tour of the United States.

For the first time since she was discovered in 1974 by paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson, Lucy was exhibited in the Ethiopian capital – initially at the national museum and later at the African Union (AU) conference centre as part of the AU’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Africa is the origin of all humankind and that everyone has roots in Ethiopia

The diminutive Lucy – she measures a little over 1m – formed the centrepiece of an exhibition charting more than 6m years of human evolution that showed that Ethiopia was the cradle of mankind.

Other highlights included Selam – the skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis child thought to have died aged three and dubbed ‘Lucy’s baby’ – the 4.4m-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus (Ardi for short) and an impressive array of early human tools dating back 2.5m years.

Thousands of visitors, including residents, schoolchildren and tourists, queued to get a glimpse of the fabled Lucy, who returned to her resting place in the basement of the national museum.

The museum houses a state-of-the- art facility built especially for Lucy and the many thousands of other fossils found around the country.

Lucy is well-loved throughout Ethiopia, so much so that the women’s football team is nicknamed Lucy in her honour.

Mamitu Yilma, the director of the national museum, told The Africa Report that public interest in Lucy was such that the organisers had to extend the exhibition’s duration.

“We have had so many visitors, including the prime minister of Ethiopia,” Mamitu said. “He was very happy to see Lucy, and he gave a good message that Africa is the origin of all humankind and that everyone has roots in Ethiopia.” ●

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