FOSSIL SKULLS STONE TOOLS OVERVIEW HUMAN EVOLUTION 13 BIG QUESTIONS
Australopithecus afarensis
Australopithecus afarensis
Bradshaw Foundation Origins Archive
 
Australopithecus afarensis, famously known as 'Lucy', is an extinct hominid that lived between 3.9 and 2.9 million years ago. Australopithecus afarensis was slenderly built, and closely related to the genus Homo, possibly as a direct ancestor or a close relative of an unknown ancestor. Lucy herself is 3.2 million years old, discovered by Donald Johanson and colleagues in the Afar Triangle region of Hadar in Ethiopia on November 24th 1974 [Johanson, D.C. 2009]. ‘Lucy’ was an almost complete skeleton. Australopithecus afarensis name Lucy was inspired by the Beatles song 'Lucy in the sky with diamonds'.
AUSTRALOPITHECUS AFARENSIS
AUSTRALOPITHECUS AFARENSIS
Australopithecus afarensis Lucy Ethiopia Africa
Genus: Australopithecus
Species: Australopithecus afarensis
Other Names: Lucy
Dikika Baby
Time Period: 3.9 to 2.9 million years ago
Characteristics: Bipedal, Scavenger, Tool User
Fossil Evidence: Partial Skeleton 'Lucy' Ethiopia, Africa

AUSTRALOPITHECUS AFARENSIS

 
Australopithecus afarensis Lucy
'Lucy'
Australopithecus afarensis
Other localities bearing Australopithecus afarensis remains include Omo, Maka, Fejej and Belohdelie in Ethiopia and Koobi Fora and Lothagam in Kenya.
 
Australopithecus afarensis has canines and molars relatively larger than in modern humans, a relatively small brain size - 380 to 430 cm3 - and a face with forward projecting jaws. The anatomy of the hands, feet and shoulder joints suggest that the creatures were partly arboreal rather than exclusively bipedal, although in overall anatomy, the pelvis is far more human-like than ape-like. The change in the pelvis would infact have made child birth more difficult. Australopithecus afarensis would have had relatively short legs and long arms.
 
Australopithecus afarensis Skeleton
Skeleton Cast
Australopithecus afarensis
Museum national d'histoire naturelle, Paris
Australopithecus afarensis had replaced the opposable big toe with the arched foot, and was able to walk in almost the same way as modern humans, with a normal erect gait, as suggested by the Laetoli evidence. 'Lucy' represents a gradual bipedal transition between the chimp and the modern human. Australopithecus afarensis in Africa was probably becoming bipedal as a response to a changing climate, changing from a jungle to a savannah environment.
 
The Laetoli Footprints, the footprints of a family preserved in volcanic ash at a site in Tanzania just south of Olduvai gorge, were excavated and first studied by Louis and Mary Leaky in 1978.
 
Based on sexual dimorphism - the difference in body size between males and females - these creatures most likely lived in small family groups containing a single dominant and larger male and a number of smaller breeding females. 'Lucy' would have lived in a group culture, which would have required communication, perhaps verbal and certainly non-verbal, such as facial expressions.
 
In 2006 ‘Dikika baby’ was discovered by Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged in Ethiopia. The fossils are from a three year old infant that lived 3.3 million years ago.
 
Regarding the use of tools, evidence suggests the hominin species ate meat by carving animal carcasses with stone implements. Near the ‘Dikika baby’ site, animal bones were discovered showing fractures caused by stone tools. This finding pushes back the earliest known use of stone tools [rather than the making of stone tools] among hominins to about 3.4 million years ago [McPherron et al. 2010].