07 August 2007

Lucy goes on tour

The famous Lucy, or at least 40 per cent of her skeleton, is about to be put on display at museums in the U.S.

Lucy, a 3.2 million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis, was once thought to represent our most ancient human ancestor. Although only a little over a metre tall, with a brain case the size of a chimpanzee, she walked upright and is
, therefore, considered one of us.

Not everyone is happy with Lucy departing the Natural History Museum in Addis Ababa
. Indeed, the agreement between Ethiopia and the Houston Museum of Natural Science for her tour would seem to violate a resolution of the International Association for the Study of Human Paleontology which states that fragile fossils should not be moved from their country of origin. Ethiopia and the U.S. both signed the resolution. Renowned palaeontologist Richard Leakey insists the skeleton is too fragile to be moved while some museums, including the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian, have refused to participate in the exhibition.

Nonetheless, Lucy has resided in the United States before, having spent the first nine years after her discovery in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Let us hope the venerable lady survives her current trip.

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