Friday, July 8, 2011

Lucy and the Ethiopian History

Four million years ago, near Hadar in the most easterly part of Ethiopia's Welo Province, there was a lake in a verdant setting. Its subsequent desiccation safeguarded a treasure for future paleoanthropologists: in 1974, an old shore or marsh yielded up the fossilized remains of "Lucy Australopithecus afarensis ," a relatively young hominid woman. Her almost complete skeleton reveals an ape-faced species that had just begun its evolution toward intelligence. Her small brain,
one-third the size of that of a modern human, directed a compact and rugged body, little more than a meter tall and weighing about thirty kilos, set on pelvic and leg bones dense enough to support erect and sustained walking, if not speedy locomotion. She and her larger male counterpart scavenged meat from carnivores, caught smaller animals, and collected fruit, vegetables, roots, and tubers. Though they used sticks and stones, they did not hunt; they spent most of their lives gathering and collecting near water and sheltering trees. Even with its obvious limitations, Australopithecus afarensis survived for at least two million years before giving way to its closely related cousin Australopithecus africanus ,present about three million years ago in Ethiopia's Omo region.
The Ethiopians call her Dinkenesh , or "she is wonderful."

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