Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From

by UndergroundLibrarian@evpl on Monday, September 14 2009, 3:48pm. Viewed 891 times.

When they found her fossilized bones in 1974, the scientists had a tape recording of the Beatles'  Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.  They were so excited at their discovery that they played it over and over.  So the hominid uncovered in Hadar, Ethiopia, has come to be called Lucy. 

Catherine Thimmesh has written numerous award-winning nonfiction children's books.  In Lucy Long Ago she turns her attention to the discovery of the oldest, most complete fossil skeleton ever found, and the earliest one to be bipedal, or walking on two feet.  She follows the scientists in their work from Ethiopia to a lab in Cleveland, Ohio. There are lots of questions. 

How did Donald Johanson get the pieces safely to Cleveland?  By packing them carefully in toilet paper into a carry on suitcase which he held on his lap the whole way. Thimmesh goes into detailed descriptions, complete with photos and drawings, of how the scientists went about reconstructing the fossilized pieces into what they feel is their original shape. 

How did they find their answers?  By examining the bones.  In this attractively laid-out book every so often is a section entitled And the Bones Said. . .  Reading these sections will show how the scientists answer: *Was the skeleton adult or child? *Was it male or female? *Have people found examples of Lucy-types before, or was she the first? *How old is Lucy? *Could Lucy walk?

Then there is the work of paleo-artist John Gurche. He spent 15 months creating a sculpture of Lucy.  Catherine Thimmish explains how he started with the bones and used educated guesses to progress from there to create the sculpture -- how he developed muscle, eyes, hair, skin color, etc.  She concludes that chapter with "It is the image that really makes us wonder . . . is that what Lucy looked like?"

While this book is in the children's area, it is equally fascinating for adults, and at 63 pages, is quite manageable.  Sources, websites, and index are included.

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