Lucy's Legacy

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2010-06-01
  • Publisher: Broadway Books

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"Lucy is a 3.2-million-year-old skeleton who has become the spokeswoman for human evolution. She is perhaps the best known and most studied fossil hominid of the twentieth century, the benchmark by which other discoveries of human ancestors are judged."FromLucy's Legacy In hisNew York Timesbestseller,Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind,renowned paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson told the incredible story of his discovery of a partial female skeleton that revolutionized the study of human origins. Lucy literally changed our understanding of our world and who we come from. Since that dramatic find in 1974, there has been heated debate andmost importantmore groundbreaking discoveries that have further transformed our understanding of when and how humans evolved. InLucy's Legacy, Johanson takes readers on a fascinating tour of the last three decades of studythe most exciting period of paleoanthropologic investigation thus far. In that time, Johanson and his colleagues have uncovered a total of 363 specimens of Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy's species, a transitional creature between apes and humans), spanning 400,000 years. As a result, we now have a unique fossil record of one branch of our family treethat family being humanitya tree that is believed to date back a staggering 7 million years. Focusing on dramatic new fossil finds and breakthrough advances in DNA research, Johanson provides the latest answers that post-Lucy paleoanthropologists are finding to questions such as: How did Homo sapiens evolve? When and where did our species originate? What separates hominids from the apes? What was the nature of Neandertal and modern human encounters? What mysteries about human evolution remain to be solved? Donald Johanson is a passionate guide on an extraordinary journey from the ancient landscape of Hadar, Ethiopiawhere Lucy was unearthed and where many other exciting fossil discoveries have since been madeto a seaside cave in South Africa that once sheltered early members of our own species, and many other significant sites. Thirty-five years after Lucy, Johanson continues to enthusiastically probe the origins of our species and what it means to be human. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Pioneering paleoanthropologist and winner of the American Book Award, DONALD C. JOHANSON founded the Institute of Human Origins in 1981, now located at Arizona State University in Tempe.

KATE WONG has been covering human evolution for Scientific American for more than a decade.

From the Hardcover edition.

Table of Contents

The Hominid Family Treep. x
Key Hominid Sitesp. xii
The Woman Who Shook Up Man's Family Treep. 3
Unfinished Businessp. 22
Rocky Beginningsp. 33
Pay Dirtp. 59
Several Successful Field Seasonsp. 83
Getting to Know Lucy Betterp. 98
Lucy's Worldp. 111
Growing Up Australopithecinep. 129
Lucy's Ancestors
The Dawn of Humankindp. 149
The First Australopithecinesp. 166
Lucy's Descendants
Ecce Homop. 183
Leaving the Motherlandp. 201
The Hobbits of Floresp. 216
The Neandertalsp. 234
The Rise of Homo sapiensp. 252
Unsolved Mysteriesp. 269
Epilogue The Discovery of Ardip. 283
Selected Referencesp. 295
Acknowledgmentsp. 305
Indexp. 309
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter 1

The Woman Who Shook Up

Man's Family Tree

Never in my wildest fantasies did I imagine that I would discover a fossil as earthshaking as Lucy. When I was a teenager, I dreamed of traveling to Africa and finding a "missing link." Lucy is that and more: a 3.2-million-year-old skeleton who has become the spokeswoman for human evolution. She is perhaps the best known and most studied fossil hominid of the twentieth century, the benchmark by which other discoveries of human ancestors are judged.

Whenever I tell the story, I am instantly transported back to the thrilling moment when I first saw her thirty-four years ago on the sandy slopes of Hadar in Ethiopia's Afar region. I can feel the searing, noonday sun beating down on my shoulders, the beads of sweat on my forehead, the dryness of my mouth--and then the shock of seeing a small fragment of bone lying inconspicuously on the ground. Most dedicated fossil hunters spend the majority of their lives in the field without finding anything remarkable, and there I was, a thirty-one-year-old newly minted Ph.D., staring at my childhood dream at my feet.

Sunday, November 24, 1974, began, as it usually does for me in the field, at dawn. I had slept well in my tent, with the glittering stars visible through the small screen that kept out the mosquitoes, and as sunrise announced a brilliant new day, I got up and went to the dining tent for a cup of thick, black Ethiopian coffee. Listening to the morning sounds of camp life, I planned with some disinclination the day's activities: catching up on correspondence, fossil cataloging, and a million other tasks that had been set aside to accommodate a visit from anthropologists Richard and Mary Leakey. I looked up as Tom Gray, my grad student, appeared.

"I'm plotting the fossil localities on the Hadar map," he said. "Can you show me Afar Locality 162, where the pig skull was found last year?"

"I have a ton of paperwork and am not sure I want to leave camp today."

"Can you do the paperwork later?"

"Even if I start it now I'll be doing it later," I grumbled. But something inside--a gut sense that I had learned to heed--said I should put the paperwork aside and head to the outcrops with Tom.

A couple of geologists joined us in one of our old, dilapidated Land Rovers, and in a cloud of dust we headed out to the field. I sat in the passenger seat enjoying the passing landscape peppered with animal fossils. Flocks of quacking guinea fowl ran for cover, and a giant warthog, annoyed by our intrusion, hurried off, its tail straight up in the air. Unlike many mammals that had been hunted to extinction in the area, the Hadar warthogs were left alone by the Afar locals, whose Islamic faith forbade eating pork. Tom put the Land Rover through its paces, and as we picked up speed in the sandy washes, my mind switched gears into fossil-finding mode. After we dropped off the geologists, who needed to inspect an important geological fault that had disturbed the sedimentary layers near Locality 162, Tom and I threaded our way along smaller and smaller gullies.

"Somewhere around here," I said. "Pull over." Then I laughed as it occurred to me that in the remote desert you don't have to pull over, you just stop driving. We got out and spent a few minutes locating the cairn that had been left to mark the pig skull's locality, a little plateau of clay and silt sediments bordered by harder layers of sandstone. A year earlier, a geologist had been out on a mapping mission and the plateau was obvious on the aerial photographs we had toted along; otherwise we might have overlooked it. After carefully piercing a pinhole into the aerial photo to mark the spot and labeling it "162" on the reverse side, we lingered. I was reluctant to return to camp and my paperwork. Even though the area was known to be foss

Excerpted from Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins by Kate Wong, Donald Johanson
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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