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Lucy's Ancestor: A Human Face for an Ancient Skull

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, February 10, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET
Code: 1L0301
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)
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John Gurche’s reconstructed face of "Australopithecus anamensis", based on the first skull known for the species, 2019

In February 2016, the first skull of Australopithecus anamensis was discovered in Ethiopia. Australopithecus anamensis, a pivotal early human ancestor that lived between 4.2 and 3.8 million years ago, is widely believed to be the ancestor of Lucy, a partial skeleton found in 1974, that at the time was considered the most ancient early human, or hominin, ever found.

The find fills an important gap in the study of human evolution. Fossils of hominins that old are exceedingly rare and often mere fragments of bone. In contrast, the newfound skull is fairly complete, revealing many details about how one of our earliest ancestors lived and evolved.

Learn about the discovery and importance of Australopithecus anamensis from paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, head of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program and the Peter Buck chair in human origins at the Natural History Museum. Then, hear from paleo-artist John Gurche, who was commissioned by paleontologist Yohannes Haile-Selaissie, the skull’s discoverer, to reconstruct the face of Australopithecus anamensis. Gurche also created 15 sculptures of early humans for the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins.

Inside Science