Lucy is the common name of AL 288-1, several hundred pieces of bone fossils representing 40 percent of the skeleton of a female of the hominin species Australopithecus afarensis. Lucy was discovered in 1974 near the village Hadar in the Awash Valley of the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia by paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson.
The Lucy specimen is an early australopithecine and is dated to about 3.2 million years ago. The skeleton presents a small skull akin to that of non-hominin apes, plus evidence of a walking-gait that was bipedal and upright, akin to that of humans (and other hominins); this combination supports the (debated) view of human evolution that bipedalism preceded increase in brain size.
“Lucy” acquired her name from the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles, which was played loudly and repeatedly in the expedition camp all evening after the excavation team’s first day of work on the recovery site. After public announcement of the discovery, Lucy captured much public interest, becoming almost a household name at the time.
Beginning in 2007, the fossil assembly and associated artefacts were exhibited publicly in an extended six-year tour of the United States; the exhibition was called Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia. Lucy became famous in the US and around the world, and was returned to Ethiopia in 2013.