Meet Lucy and Ardi
By Ama H. Vanniarachchy
Ceylon Today Features
Although we today separate ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom, science proves that we were and we are a part of the animal kingdom. It is a fact that we humans, known as the Homo sapiens evolved from the apes. We share a common ape ancestor with chimpanzees. We all belong to a large and complicated family tree and Homo sapiens are just one tiny little fragment of the vast spread animal kingdom.
We all know Lucy; one of our earliest human ancestors. She was an early australopithecine that lived 3.2 million years ago. Since her discovery in the year 1974, Lucy has become a household name and has earned her place as perhaps the world’s most famous human ancestor. Although Ardi is not as famous as Lucy is, she was an important groundbreaking discovery. Lucy isn’t a monkey; she belongs to Australopithecus Afarensis species - an early hominin - approximately 3.2 million years old, which is thought to be our direct ancestor or at least a close relative of an unknown ancestor.
Lucy was discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia, Africa. In November 1974, Donald Johanson and his student Tom Gray while surveying Hadar, in Ethiopia, noticed some bone fragments. They were excited and curious. As they hurried their work they found out more fragments of bones. This was how Lucy was unearthed. Lucy’s discovery eclipsed nearly all earlier findings because of the extraordinary completeness of Lucy’s skeleton, making her one of the most important paleoanthropological findings of our time.
Initially she was named as AL 288-1. However, as the song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was playing at the set while the team was working on discovering Lucy, she was nicknamed Lucy. She is also affectionately referred to as Disquinesh, which means ‘wonderful thing’ in Amharic (an Ethiopian) language.
Lucy’s species is known as Australopithecus afarensis.
Facts about Lucy
Lucy was a small-bodied female that probably stood about 3 feet 6 inches (107cm) tall and weighed roughly 60 pounds (27.3 kg). She was bipedal. Lucy possesses both ape and human characteristics. Her wisdom teeth were very human like. The skeleton’s pelvis reveals that it was a female.
After heavy studies on her teeth and the growth of her skeleton, scientists believe that she was an adult around 12 years of age.
Scientists are not sure of the cause of her death, as there was no sign of damage on her bones apart from for a single carnivore tooth mark on the top of her left pubic bone. Scientists believe that this could have happened around the time of her death. However the cause of her death is still not decided. In 2016 researchers at the University of Texas suggested that she died after falling off a tree. But Doland Johanson and Time white do not agree with this.
We will be celebrating Lucy’s 47th discovering anniversary this year. To date, she remains one of the oldest, most complete A. afarensis specimens ever found.
Ardi; Older than Lucy
The second remarkable archaeological discovery about human evolution next to Lucy was Ardi. Discovering Ardi created great controversies among scientists. Some scientists did not accept Ardi as a member of the human family, while others did.
However, as a result of extensive research Ardi is affirmed to be a homini (earlier the term used was hominid).
Ardi was discovered near the Awash River in Ethiopia in the year 1994, by Yohannes Haile-Selassie. The discovery was made by a team of scientists led by UC Berkeley anthropologist, Tim D. White. She was known as Ardipithecus ramidus.
At the time of discovery the skeleton was in an extremely fragile status; so fragile that it would turn into dust with a touch. This extremely fragile nature of the skeleton of Ardi took several years to carefully remove the bone fragments from the rock to which it was attached to.
Ardi means ‘ground floor’ in Afar language. Ardi was the root of the family tree of humanity.
Facts about Ardi
Scientific dating revealed that Ardi lived 4.4 million years ago making her more than one million years older than Lucy.
Ardi was found along with animal remains. This indicated that she inhabited a forest environment. This is one controversy Ardi created as so far it was thought that bipedalism originated in the Savannah. Ardi had a grasping big toe of a tree climber and her other four toes displayed anatomy similar to upright bipeds.
She climbed trees, but also walked erect on the ground and it is believed that she did not knuckle walk like modern African apes. She also did not have dagger-like canine teeth of chimpanzees. Ardi’s snout was prognathous.
After analysing Ardi, scientists were surprised to reveal she was “neither chimpanzee nor human” in nature.