Lucy makes a Google doodle appearance
Forty-one years ago, in 1974, a female Australopithecus afarensis was discovered in the Awash Valley of the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia. Several hundred bone fossils were found, representing about 40% of a single skeleton and dating to about 3.2-million years ago. This skeleton, careful analysis revealed, was identified as the oldest example of a bipedal primate and a crucial part of the evolution between apes and Homo sapiens.
Famously, she was called “Lucy” after the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, which was played repeatedly during the expedition (it was the 70s, after all!). She is also known as AL 288-1 and, more romantically, as Dinkinesh in Ethiopia, which means "you are marvellous".
On 24 November 2015, Google paid homage to the discovery of Lucy in its Google doodle, which showed an Australopithecus afarensis walking between an ape and Homo sapiens, so showing the evolution of bipedalism.
Lucy represents just one species of the Australopithecus genus. More fossils of Australopithecus africanus, another species which lived between 3-million and 2-million years ago, have been found at the Cradle of Humankind than any other hominin species. In 1936, the first adult specimen of an Australopithecus was found at Sterkfontein by palaeontologist and director of the Transvaal Museum, Dr Robert Broom. Mrs Ples, discovered in 1974, and many other specimens found in Sterkfontein Member 4, also belong to this species.
In 2013, Lucy returned to her home in Ethiopia, where her skeleton is housed at the National Museum of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. If you choose to visit her, you'll be able to see a plaster replica on display rather than the original skeleton.