Weird History
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The Story Of Lucy - A Humanoid Skeleton That Is Approximately 3.2 Million Years Old

Updated January 29, 2021 44.8k views11 items

The discovery of a skeleton called "Lucy" in 1974 sent waves through the scientific community, as she essentially represented a "missing link" between our ape ancestors and modern-day humans. Lucy hails from the species Australopithecus afarensis, natives of Eastern Africa around 3 million years ago.

Lucy walked upright, possessed a face resembling a cross between modern humans and apes, and, like many Australopithecus, displayed other traits familiar to us. Lucy the Hominid told a story through her bones, but she did much more than that. For many people, Lucy started the debate about what it means to be human.

  • We Know Her Gender Due To Size Differences Within Her Species

    Photo: James St. John / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Lucy only stood around 3.5 feet tall and weighed between 60-65 pounds. Although some scientists believe her small size shouldn't lead to assumptions about her gender, others think it points towards her being female. The species Australopithecus afarensis is sexually dimorphic, meaning the males differed in size and appearance from the females.

    In most sexually dimorphic ape species, the males possessed larger teeth - but with Australopithecus afarensis, teeth size in both men and women remained the same. Scientists posit the theory that this species didn't require large teeth for displays of male dominance. 

  • Some Experts Believe She Died After Falling From A Tree

    Photo: Matheusvieeira / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    To date, only one plausible theory exists for Lucy's death: a considerable amount of circumstantial evidence points to a fall from a great height. Lucy suffered compressive fractures to many areas of her body, and some experts believe she died from these injuries. Australopithecus afarensis transitioned from living in trees to walking upright on the ground, so a fall from a high tree makes sense.

    With no evidence of carnivores feeding on her body, a predator likely didn't attack or kill Lucy. Scientists, however, may never determine her cause of death with any certainty.

  • Her Skeleton Shows Evidence That She Walked Upright

    Photo: Ryan Somma / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    According to researchers, Lucy's skeleton bears "evidence clearly pointing to bipedality." Her legs hold a few clues, as the knee joints and kneecaps show signs of biped motion. Her pelvis also indicates adaptations for standing upright rather than living on all fours.

    Also, her toes look closer to human toes than those of an ape (big toe forward instead of to the side), and her spinal vertebrae possess the curvature needed for standing up straight.

  • She Came From Eastern Africa

    Photo: Timm Guenther / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    The territory of Australopithecus afarensis covered the modern countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania in Eastern Africa. Lucy herself turned up at an archeological dig site near the Ethiopian village of Hadar