24 Nov: The Lucy Fossil

Rerun. It took over three million years to find her. But palaeontologists Donald Johanson and Tom Gray uncovered the remains of ‘the Lucy Fossil’ – a previously undiscovered species of pre-human – in Hadar, Ethiopia on 24th November, 1974.

Despite the find’s massive significance, the event was not greeted with untrammelled joy by all their rival fossil hunters. Some – who had wanted to claim such a discovery for themselves – began publicly disputing that Lucy was indeed a missing link in the evolution of humankind.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal how Lucy received her rock n’ roll name; explain how her tiny brain but upright walking turned previous scientific thinking on its head; and consider whether, actually, “Captain Caveman was quite accurate”…

Further Reading:

• ‘Nov. 24, 1974: Humanity, Meet Lucy. She’s Your Mom’ (WIRED, 2009): https://www.wired.com/2009/11/1124lucy-discovered/

• ‘Lucy and the Leakeys’ (Khan Academy): https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/big-history-project/early-humans/how-ancestors-evolved/a/lucy-and-the-leakeys

• ‘Donald Johanson: Discovering the Fossil “Lucy”’ (Freedom From Religion Foundation, 2014): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AX4eqqBcIM

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