The first paleo-rock star: Is Lucy still an influencer?

Session Date: 
Apr 6, 2024

Ever since her discovery 50 years ago, Lucy has been a superstar. Her name, her age, her remarkably complete skeleton, and the story of her discovery captured the imagination of people all over the world. She has been a national treasure in Ethiopia and has been a popular ambassador for communicating about science and human evolution. Scientifically, she has been the benchmark for all other ancient hominins discovered since 1974.

But much has changed in the 50 years since her discovery. There are now fossil hominins that are twice as old as Lucy. And researchers have been filling in gaps in the picture of the ancient world she inhabited, including adding fossils of different hominins that were alive at the same time as Lucy’s species, Australopithecus afarensis. Many think that she was not alone and that her neighbors are challenging her species’ status as the last common ancestor of our genus Homo and our distant cousins in the human family tree.

This talk will explore how new discoveries are influencing how the public sees Lucy and her place in the human family. Like other middle-aged celebrities, her status as the Taylor Swift of fossils is getting challenged by newcomers. How does that change the way we write about Lucy and what the messages we share about human evolution with the public?