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Discovering Lucy -- Revisited Image 1
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Discovering Lucy -- Revisited (Image 1)

June 24, 2010
Discovering Lucy -- Revisited (Image 1) Paleoanthropologist Donald C. Johanson and a cast of Lucy. In November 1974, Johanson unearthed one of the most influential and significant fossil discoveries of the 20th century--the 3.2 million-year-old partial female skeleton of Australopithecus afarensis, known as Lucy. Discovered in Hadar, Ethiopia, her skull looked like that of an ape, yet she walked upright, like a human. [Image 1 of 4 related images. See Image 2.] More about this Image The night of the discovery, a camp tape recorder blasted the Beatle's song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. At some point during that unforgettable evening, the new fossil picked up the name. Because of the skeleton's petite stature, Johanson suspected from the start that it was female. Johanson founded the nonprofit Institute of Human Origins (IHO) in 1981. The IHO remained independent of any university until 1997, when Arizona State University (ASU) became its academic home. Today, Johanson is an ASU professor of anthropology and director of the IHO. In October 1999, IHO scientists returned to Hadar to continue their research and commemorate the 25th anniversary of Lucy's discovery. "It's very gratifying to know that Hadar continues to be a place that is important for understanding human origins. It is a place where I really came into my own," Johanson says. "Hadar is a place where I was able to give other people opportunities to work in the field of paleoanthropology, and in many ways, when I come back here, it's like coming home. Though more recent discoveries have replaced her as the oldest human ancestor fossil, Lucy still seems to occupy a very, very special place in terms of how we evaluate human evolution." (Date of Image: 1999)