Saturday, April 28, 2007


Earlier this spring [August 94], USA Today carried the cover story New Skull Illuminates Early Man referring to Donald Johanson's most recent discovery as the crown jewel of pre-human fossils. Johanson, founder of the Institute of Human Origins, led the team that discovered Australopithicus Afarensis (Lucy) in Africa's Great Rift Valley 20 years ago. This recent find provides the first complete skull of Lucy's species, generally acknowledged as the missing link between ape and man.

Australopithecus afarensis,
AL288-1 (Lucy), Museo
Nacional de Antropologia,
Mexico City.

A three part Nova series aired nationwide in February to commemorate the event. The series, hosted by Johanson and produced in part by his wife, confidently reconstructed Lucy's past using frequent scenes of aberrant human forms wondering among “prehistoric” settings.

But what was the evidence that was so complete, so convincing, so indisputable it allowed Johanson to win almost universal acceptance of Lucy's species as our predecessor? Before revealing the surprising answer, let’s first review some former "crown jewels of pre-human fossils."

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