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Celebrity Ancestor “Lucy” Gets Makeover In Time For Scientific Consortium

Friday, September 20, 2013 at 12:01 AM

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Standing up is a skill we take for granted. But it made a rock star of Lucy, of the species Australopithecus afarensis. A special consortium on Lucy – now one of mankind’s most famous ancestors - kicks off today, including a big reveal later this morning. Ideastream’s Brian Bull reports:

Photo Gallery

An earlier reproduction of Lucy.  A more updated version will be unveiled later today (pic from Creative Commons) Researcher Bruce Latimer, next to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's older Lucy skeleton (pic by Brian Bull) The new Lucy skeleton (deliberately obscured in this image, next to Yohannes Haile-Selassie) will be revealed today (pic by Brian Bull) Dr. Bruce Latimer with the CMNH's collection of 4,000 human and simian skeletons (pic by Brian Bull)

Lucy was discovered in 1974 by Donald Johansson, then curator of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  With 40-percent of her skeleton unearthed from a hot, barren corner of Ethiopia, she’s been hailed as a pivotal scientific discovery, demonstrating that bipedalism – or walking upright on two feet – preceded the use of stone tools.

Lucy became a household name, and toured the U.S., enthralling researchers and school groups alike.  Now almost 40 years after her discovery, Lucy is making a comeback of sorts.

“For 3.2 million years old, the old girl looks great,” says Bruce Latimer.  He researches anatomy and orthodontics at Case Western Reserve University, specifically the evolution of walking.  He’s referring to the most updated reconstruction of Lucy, built in time for this weekend’s events. 

“And this is the best one, in fact this is the best in the world.”

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s Curator of Physical Anthropology, Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, says the new and improved Lucy will be unveiled this morning.

“This is as accurate as we can get it,” he says. “In addition to the 100 percent skeletal reconstruction of Lucy, we’ve also added a life-like reconstruction which I think is going to be very attractive to the general public.  All the skin, hair, and everything, so it’s the real Lucy.”

Organizers hope the 25 Lucy researchers visiting this weekend will take steps toward greater collaboration to better understand this remarkable hominid.

Note: Today’s symposium is open to the public.  It’s being held at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History from 9 to 4 o’clock.


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