Scientist agrees with ETP; calls Lucy skeleton tour 'prostitution'
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Associated press - Ethiopia's dispatching of the Lucy skeleton on a six-year-tour of the United States is akin to prostituting the fragile, 3.2 million year-old fossil, paleontologist Richard Leakey said Friday.
The Lucy skeleton — one of the world's most famous fossils — was quietly flown out of Ethiopia earlier this week for the U.S. tour. Leakey, one of the world's best-known fossil hunters, is not the first to criticize what some see as a gamble with an irreplaceable relic. The U.S. Smithsonian Institution also has objected to the tour, and the secretive manner in which the remains were sent abroad has raised eyebrows in Ethiopia, where the public has seen the real Lucy fossil only twice.
"It's a form of prostitution, it's gross exploitation of the ancestors of humanity and it should not be permitted," Leakey told The Associated Press in an interview at his Nairobi office.(More...)
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Why is LUCY so important?
The first known link in the evolutionary chain between primates and early humans, according to scientists, can be traced back to afarensis - a hominid that lived approximately 3.9 to 3 million years ago. The best-known specimen of afarensis is ("Lucy"), a 3.2 million year old partial skeleton found in November 1974 at Hadar, Ethiopia.
On November 24th, 1974 the Anthropologist Donald Johansen discovered a female hominid (whom he later named "Lucy") near the Awash River in Hadar, Ethiopia. Anthropologists classified Lucy as Australopithecus afarensis and believe this hominid to be the earliest common ancestor shared between primates and early humans.(World History Reference - Australopithecus afarensis)
Questions and Answers:
(Instutute of Human Origins)
How did Lucy get her name?
Later in the night of November 24th, there was much celebration and excitement over the discovery of what looked like a fairly complete hominid skeleton. There was drinking, dancing, and singing; the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was playing over and over. At some point during that night no one remembers when or by whom the skeleton was given the name “Lucy.” The name has stuck.
How do we know she was female?
Evidence now strongly suggests that the Hadar material, as well as fossils from elsewhere in East Africa from the same time period, belong to a single, sexually dimorphic species known as Australopithecus afarensis. At Hadar the size difference is very clear, with larger males and smaller females being fairly easy to distinguish. Lucy clearly fits into the smaller group.
Do we know how she died?
No cause has been determined for Lucy’s death. One of the few clues we have is the conspicuous lack of post-mortem carnivore and scavenger marks. Typically, animals that were killed by predators and then scavenged by other animals (such as hyaenas) will show evidence of chewing, crushing, and gnawing on the bones. The ends of long bones are often missing, and their shafts are sometimes broken (which enables the predator to get to the marrow). In contrast, the only damage we see on Lucy's bones is a single carnivore tooth puncture mark on the top of her left pubic bone. This is what is called a peri-mortem injury, one occurring at or around the time of death. If it occurred after she died but while the bone was still fresh, then it may not be related to her death.
How old was she when she died?
There are several indicators which give a fair idea of her age. Her third molars (“wisdom teeth”) are erupted and slightly worn, indicating that she was fully adult. All the ends of her bones had fused and her cranial sutures had closed, indicating completed skeletal development. Her vertebrae show signs of degenerative disease, but this is not always associated with older age. All these indicators, when taken together, suggest that she was a young, but fully mature, adult when she died.