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Obama meets Lucy

29 Jul 2015
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Obama meets Lucy: United States President's meeting with Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old member of Australopithecus afarensis.

David Smith reports from Addis Ababa on theguardian.com - Obama meets Lucy, 'the grandmother of humanity,' during Ethiopia visit - about Obama's meeting with Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old member of Australopithecus afarensis.

President Obama meets Lucy, Australopithecus afarensis
Image: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The fossil, normally housed in Ethiopia's national museum, was brought to the national palace on Monday for Obama's visit.  The US president was able to touch a vertebra from Lucy's torso under the supervision of Dr Zeresenay Alemseged, senior curator of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences.

Obama, the first sitting US president to visit Ethiopia, commented "So Lucy was on the chain to homo sapiens. How many jumps were there between Lucy and homo sapiens?"

Alemseged informed the Presdient that there were multiple generations in between. Referring to later discoveries, he added "we have the evidence that homo sapiens indeed emerged in Ethiopia."

Lucy had a very small brain, primitive wrists, feet and teeth and was only one metre tall, but was still declared 'the grandmother of humanity' after her discovery in Ethiopia's Afar region. Paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson, who made the find in 1974, played a Beatles cassette at his campsite that night and the song 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' came on, giving the fossil its name.

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