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Lucy, the 3.2 million-year old fossil, is called dinknesh in Amharic, the official Ethiopian native tongue, which translates into ‘the amazing one’. She was discovered in the Lower Awash Valley, in a place called Hadar in 1974. In paleoanthropology, usually only fossil fragments are found, and only rarely are skulls or ribs uncovered intact, so Lucy’s discovery was a real treat as she was discovered intact with ribs and a skull. She has provided an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence.
Lucy’s discovery irrevocably set Africa as the origin of mankind and it was probably one of the few most important pieces of discovery that presented Ethiopia in a positive light to the world. Now, Lucy is on display at the National Museum, safely placed in a thick glass box. This extremely delicate treasure needed a lot of care and was given that care. Tourists come to Ethiopia and they almost never leave without seeing Lucy, an astonishing facet of human evolution.
Everything was cheery and jolly until it was decided that it was time for Lucy to start touring the US for six years. The tour entitled ‘Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia’, featured Lucy as well as other very significant artifacts.
There was some controversy regarding the issue and a dispute arose between the government and some scientists. Arguments like ‘Lucy was just too fragile’ and ‘such risks should never be taken’ were presented by these scientists along with some American scientists of similar opinion. The fossil’s discoverer, Donald Johanson stated that, although he was somewhat uneasy about the possibility of damage, he did not oppose exhibiting Lucy as it will help to raise awareness of human-origins studies. The museum had been busy making arrangements for the exhibits to be shown at as many as ten other museums at the time.
Despite the risk of damage, which was a real possibility for Lucy, the artifacts were sent to their planned destination; Lucy was literally “in the sky”, so to speak. Lucy was put to work. The exhibit was shown at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington where it was displayed from October 4, 2008 – March 8, 2009. In September 2008, between the exhibits in Houston and Seattle, the fossils were taken to the University of Texas in Austin for 10 days to complete the first ever high-resolution CT Scan of the fossil.
Lucy has also been exhibited at the Discovery Times Square Exposition, a new facility located in New York City, since June 24, 2009. Then she was on display until October 25, 2009 in New York.
After her long stay, Lucy wrapped up her work and was flown back to Addis. Ethiopia celebrated her return on May 7th this year.
Many people were eager to find out how she was doing and whether she was damaged or not. Maybe the Americans, with their sophisticated technologies, duplicated our Lucy and gave us the fake one! All these thoughts were running around in people’s heads.
Oh! And the other big question of course was how much money did Lucy and the other artifacts made in the US during their stay of over half a decade?
That announcement came at a press conference held at the National Museum, in the presence of government officials, local and foreign media, as well as scientists. And the number was a mere USD 1.5 million. The Ethiopian government took an unnecessary risk, for such a small amount of money, is the general outlook of quite a lot of people. Truth is, Lucy would have probably made a lot less than what she made in the US if she had stayed in Ethiopia, and to many, that would have been more than okay.