President Obama meets 'Lucy'


Julie Russ

President Obama enjoyed a rare event during his recent trip to Ethiopia — one that only a handful of scientists, including ASU’s Donald Johanson and William Kimbel, have had the opportunity to do — touching the original 3.2-million-year-old fossil skeleton bones of “Lucy.”

The fossil bones were discovered in 1974 by Johanson, ASU Institute of Human Origins’ (IHO) founding director, in the Afar region of Ethiopia.

Zeresenay Alemseged, IHO international affiliate and former postdoctoral fellow, had the honor of showing Obama the bones of the ancient human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis,which were displayed without its usual protective cover. Alemseged is a native Ethiopian who is currently the senior curator of anthropology for the California Academy of Sciences.

Alemseged encouraged Obama to touch the bones, telling him, “Knowing that connection (to our human ancestors) is very important. Every single person, 7 billion individuals, here is connected.”

A video of Alemseged and President Obama with Lucy can be viewed on YouTube.