CWRU Links

LUCY

LUCY is more technically known as Australopithicus afarensis. Though she lived and died in Ethiopia some 3.2 million years ago, she has some strong Cleveland connections.

Lucy, named after the Beatles' tune "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," was discovered in 1973 in the Afar Triangle region of Ethiopia by Donald C. Johanson, then an asst. professor of anthropology at CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIV. and a curator of physical anthropology at the CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY. Lucy proved to be the oldest discovered link in the chain of human evolution, and with some 40 bones, represented the most intact prehistoric skeleton found. In 1974 Johanson returned to Ethiopia and found the fossilized partial remains of at least 13 other individuals. Named "the first family," these links to the past were brought to Cleveland for further study.

Subsequent study helped revise contemporary understanding about the evolutionary chain. Lucy is officially classified as a hominid, a predecessor of humankind. From her species later came Homo habilis, then Homo erectus, and finally Homo sapiens. Lucy was a 3.5' tall bipedal creature. The researchers believe that it was her bipedality which made possible new reproductive regimens--such as long-term infant care--and that this feature, rather than increased brain size, as was then believed, steered the future course of human development. Lucy's remains were eventually returned to Ethiopia, where they remain today. She still retains a Cleveland connection, however. At the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, a cast of her skeleton is on display.


Johanson, Donald C. Lucy's Child: The Discovery of a Human Ancestor (1989).