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ETHIOPIA's rich heritage: Lucy's birthplace is globally significant

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Bianca
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« on: October 04, 2008, 08:17:48 am »




             










                             Ethiopia's rich heritage: Lucy's birthplace is globally significant






By TOM PAULSON
P-I REPORTER

It is fitting that one of the most signature discoveries of humankind -- a finding that has helped define a big part of our prehistory -- would take place in one of the most unusual and historic places on the planet.

As the ancient fossil known as Lucy indicates, that portion of northern East Africa we now call Ethiopia may well have been the cradle of humanity. The oldest known fossils of modern humans, dated at 190,000 years old, have been found there along with the remains of chimplike ancestors who preceded Lucy by more than 2.5 million years.

But Ethiopia's contributions certainly didn't stop with possibly launching human evolution that eventually spread these inquisitive and creative hairless apes all over the place to ultimately build skyscrapers, fly airplanes and try to drive a car while talking on a cell phone.



   
        

  This ceramic head is from the Beta Israel (literally, "House of Israel") culture of Ethiopia, comprised of Jews of Ethiopian decent who have had a presence in the country since the 14th century. They are known for agriculture as well as exquisite crafts and jewelry, blacksmithing and pottery making.
As the exhibit at the Pacific Science Center emphasizes, Ethiopia has continued to play a significant -- if often unrecognized -- role in the global and cultural affairs of Homo sapiens up to the present.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2008, 08:00:52 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2008, 08:23:38 am »




           










As the exhibit at the Pacific Science Center emphasizes, Ethiopia has continued to play a significant -- if often unrecognized -- role in the global and cultural affairs of Homo sapiens up to the present.

Ethiopia is mentioned in the Bible many times -- beginning with the book of Genesis, as Cush or Abyssinia, as perhaps the home of King Solomon's Queen of Sheba and even of one of Moses' wives. It is the only African country that successfully fought off European colonization, except for a brief occupation by Mussolini's forces during World War II. It has long been a spiritual home for strong traditional communities of Christians, Muslims, Jews and even (symbolically, at least) for the cannabis-celebrating Rastafari movement, named after the precoronation name of Ethiopia's last emperor, Haile Selassie, who was deposed the same year, 1974, that Lucy was discovered.

And, especially for Seattle residents, it is important to mention that ninth century Ethiopia also gave us coffee.

"But all anyone ever thinks about when you mention Ethiopia is famine," chuckled Ezra Teshome, a leading figure in Seattle's large Ethiopian community who moved here from Addis Ababa in 1971. "We're hoping that Lucy coming here will provide an opportunity for people to learn more about the rich culture and history of the place."

Diana Johns, the lead curator for the Lucy exhibit at the science center, worked with Teshome and others to make sure that this happens for visitors.

"People will come at the science in many different ways," Johns said, and the Ethiopian context is critical. It's impossible to talk about Lucy without talking about Ethiopia, she said, adding that it's likewise impossible to talk about Ethiopia without talking about its amazingly rich -- and sometimes peculiar -- religious and cultural history.
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« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2008, 08:25:07 am »


           

            The Ethiopian civilization of Aksum produced the first indigenous
            coinage in Africa. 

            This example is from the reign of King Endubis,
            the first African king to mint coins.








"Take the Ark of the Covenant, for example," Johns said. This legendary container of Moses' stone tablets -- the same ones Indiana Jones sought in the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark" -- is said to reside under lock-and-key in a church in Axum, Ethiopia. Johns added that Haile Selassie is still celebrated by many Ethiopians as the final heir to the so-called Solomonic Dynasty (again, thanks to the Queen of Sheba) as a direct descendent of King Solomon.

"In Ethiopia, myth and fact mix comfortably together," Johns said.

It can also be hard to remember what year it is in Ethiopia. In the late 1500s, when the Christian world was ordered to change from the Julian calendar system to the Gregorian system (our current dating and time-keeping system), Ethiopia refused. As such, the country continues to stubbornly live about seven years in the past.
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« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2008, 08:31:05 am »









This fascinating East African country is not without its problems, of course. Despite its rich and proud history, it remains one of the poorest nations in the world and today has been again caught up in the midst of a food crisis. Following the toppling of Selassie, a brutal Communist regime set up shop, leading to years of strife and civil war. In the mid-1990s, a democratically elected government was established but well after that had happened elsewhere in Africa.

   


             
   
             The roof of the 12th-century Church of St. George, perhaps the best
             known of all rock-hewn churches in Lalibela.




Even the decision by the Ethiopian government to allow Lucy to travel and be exhibited abroad was viewed with suspicion and criticism by some who either thought it was inappropriate to move the fossils out of the country or that officials would misuse the revenue from the exhibit.

"There is still a lot of mistrust," Teshome said.

And for such a deeply religious country, how do Ethiopians resolve the potential for conflict between Lucy's place in evolutionary science and some of the more traditional Judeo-Christian (and Muslim) teachings of human origins?

"In Ethiopia, it's not a big issue because we don't put science and religion against each other," Teshome said.



http://www.archaeologynews.org/link.asp?ID=330799&Title='Lucy's%20Legacy'%20holds%20treasures%20for%20all%20ages%20at%20the%20Pacific%20...
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« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2008, 08:38:38 am »










                       Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old fossil, is a key piece in evolution's puzzle






By TOM PAULSON
P-I REPORTER

Some 3 million years or so after her descendants arrived in the Pacific Northwest, Lucy represents just how far we have come from those days of wandering the savannas of Africa, scavenging for food, avoiding predators and awaiting the rapid expansion of a brain that today allows us to, among other things, ponder our origins.

Lucy, known by Ethiopians as "Dinkenesh" (wonderful one) and by scientists as an Australopith, is the popular name given to the rare and highly significant 3.2 million-year-old fossil remains of a female ancestor of modern humans to be displayed in Seattle at the Pacific Science Center from Oct. 4 until March 8.

She wasn't human. But she wasn't really an ape, either. She was, for many, a hint of humankind to come.

"Lucy is simply phenomenal," said Patricia Kramer, an anthropologist at the University of Washington. "You can see yourself in her."

You can, perhaps, as long as you are among those who can imagine having evolved along with chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates from a common -- and now extinct -- ancestor many millions of years ago. Not everyone can so easily imagine this, of course, whether because of conflicting religious beliefs or just that vague "sense" we have of human beings as somehow different, special, compared with the rest of creation.

However the metaphysical debate of our place in the cosmos may some day get resolved, there's little debate within the scientific community today as to the significance of Lucy's role in human evolution on Earth.

"She occupies a pivotal place on the human family tree," said Donald Johanson, the American paleoanthropologist who, with his colleagues, discovered the fossil in 1974 near the northern Ethiopian community of Hadar. "We now know that one of the first significant things our ancestors did was to stand up, to walk on two feet instead of four."
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« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2008, 08:39:52 am »


           

            Lucy's fossilized bones as they were
            uncovered








Lucy is still one of the most complete fossils from an early group of hominids (pre-humans) to routinely walk on two feet. This may sound like no big deal to us 21st century bipeds. But scientists say this was a key evolutionary adaptation probably caused by climate change, which forced our ancestors to shift from forest skills to operating on the savannas. It appears to have triggered other critical changes in our physique and behavior that led to modern humans.

More on those changes later. First, why is the fossil named Lucy?

"After the discovery, we kept listening to The Beatles' song 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' in camp and a girlfriend of mine suggested we call her Lucy," said Johanson, who neglected to mention the much-documented celebratory partying that also took place that night. "The name just stuck. I'm amazed at how this helped to make her into this popular icon for human evolution."

But it wasn't just The Beatles who lent Johanson's discovery such prominence and recognition.

"Lucy forced us to rewrite much of the science," said Gerry Eck, a retired UW anthropologist who worked with Johanson in Ethiopia on expeditions after Lucy was uncovered. "Evolutionary history is basically a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces. Lucy helped fill in a big piece of the puzzle."

Technically, Lucy is a fossil member of a class of hominids, or proto-humans, known as Australopithecus afarensis who lived between 3.9 million and 2.9 million years ago.-
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« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2008, 08:49:14 am »










Scientists use a lot of confusing Latin names for (and frequently argue about) labeling members of the human evolutionary family tree. For simplicity's sake, human evolution can be broken into three phases -- early and very apelike hominids, Australopiths such as Lucy and our genus Homo.

Lucy and her ilk occupied a critical phase in the evolutionary process that scientists believe led to a variety of other pre-modern human species such as Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis (the Neanderthals) and eventually to us, Homo sapiens.

Australopithecus is Latin for southern ape. Lucy's species name A. afarensis means she is the southern ape who hails from Afar, the region in Ethiopia where she was discovered. She stood about 3.5 feet tall, but still had a very small brain. Back in the 1970s, scientists were still arguing over what came first in human evolution -- growing a much bigger brain or moving from four-legged to two-legged walking.




             
 
           A model of how Lucy might have looked in life.




Unlike most such ancient fossils, Lucy was more than just a piece of skull, femur or jaw. She was 40 percent intact, including much of her skull and most of her pelvis.

It was her pelvis and leg structure that nailed it: Bipedalism clearly had preceded the boom in brains.

"There was no question that we were bipedal millions of years before our brains got big," said the UW's Kramer.

"It was a spectacular find," Eck agreed. This caused a bit of a fuss, he added, because Johanson was a relative newcomer to the field and, based on Lucy, was introducing a revolutionary new interpretation of how we evolved.
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« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2008, 08:54:25 am »




           










Put brutally simply, here is a quick summary of how Lucy's bipedalism contributed to human evolution:


Standing up freed our hominid hands to eventually allow for tool use.


Tool use led to greater success in hunting or otherwise acquiring meat in the diet.


A diet rich in meat provided more of the basic biochemical building blocks needed for brain development.


Someone, at some point, learned how to use fire. Someone started talking. Someone started writing.

   
It's an absurd abbreviation of our story, of course, and of the scientific evidence. The complete story of human evolution, like the human brain, is too incredibly rich and complex to be so simplistically boiled down to such a short description. What makes Lucy so special is that, to some extent, she represents a stage in our prehistory, our evolutionary development, that we can comprehend.

There are still many mysteries, many gaps and unresolved issues to this story. Why did the Neanderthals disappear some 28,000 years ago? Did they really disappear or did they interbreed with us? Do the diminutive fossils dubbed the "Hobbits" recently discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores represent a new branch of Homo that lived contemporaneously with modern humans?

What does it really mean to be human?

Lucy certainly can't answer all the questions, but she did answer some of the most significant ones for human evolution. As such, she likely will forever be regarded as a crucial turning point in our ongoing search to understand who we are, how we got here and, perhaps, where we are headed.

"Lucy really is the link, the common ancestor, between the older, more apelike creatures and the hominids that gave rise to us," Johanson said.

"The field of paleontology is still quite young and we are in for an enormous number of further surprises. But Lucy will always be a touchstone."




P-I reporter Tom Paulson can be reached at

206-448-8318 or
tompaulson@seattlepi.com.
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« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2008, 08:58:55 am »










'Lucy" exhibit: Science of humanity is still evolving
Discoveries keep redefining what makes us who we are
By TOM PAULSON
P-I REPORTER

To begin with, when considering the story of human origins, it's perhaps important to recognize that scientists still don't agree on what it is exactly that seems to have made us so distinctive when compared with all the other animals running -- or swimming or flying, or just sitting -- around on Earth today.

Sure, we have big brains, but so do creatures like elephants and dolphins. Our close genetic cousin the chimpanzee uses tools and, arguably, a form of language to coordinate banana harvests, turf battles or other activities. The bottom line is we have yet to arrive at complete scientific consensus on what makes us human beings.

"Defining what is human from what is not human often just comes down to the personal proclivities of whomever you ask, but we do know the broad strokes," said Donald Johanson, director of Arizona State University's Institute of Human Origins and the famed paleoanthropologist who discovered Lucy. "One thing that's clear is that as we move further into the past, things get more apelike."

That much is certainly widely accepted as fact within the scientific community. The problems arise as you move forward, from ape to humans, and in resolving all the gaps, conflicting hypotheses and even apparent contradictions.

"That's what I love about the theory of evolution, that the theory itself is always changing," said Katherine Taylor, a forensic anthropologist with the King County Medical Examiner's Office who examines bones for clues about crimes and cause of death.

"As a forensic scientist, my examination and conclusions have to stand up in court," Taylor said. Much of the science she relies on is the same as that used in evolutionary science and based on distinctive, measurable characteristics of humankind. But she is not allowed the same freedom to speculate like the evolutionary theorists.

"All the new discoveries that keep adding to or changing the picture just makes it exciting," Taylor said.

"It's certainly more complex today than it was years ago," said Patricia Kramer, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Washington who studies human evolutionary adaptation. "It's not a simple dot-to-dot story anymore."

When Lucy was discovered more than 30 years ago, the main argument was over whether or not humankind evolved first by growing bigger brains or by standing upright on two legs, Kramer said. The leading anthropologists of the time, Louis and Mary Leakey, held that brains came first. Johanson eventually convinced most of his colleagues, if not the fiercely stubborn Leakeys, that Lucy proved bipedalism came before big brains.

But since then, Kramer said, we have learned many more things that make for a both a richer and more complicated story. The fairly recent discovery of fossils of a potentially new species of tiny humans -- dubbed the "Hobbits" -- who appear to have lived on an island in Indonesia some 15,000 years ago is just one monkey wrench. Because they had such tiny brains but lived contemporaneous with modern humans, she said, the simple version of our story has grown even more complicated.

"But that's the way science works," Kramer said.

It's never complete, never perfect and always at risk of disruption. "That's what makes it so much fun. This is an incredibly exciting time for paleoanthropology."



P-I reporter Tom Paulson can be reached at

206-448-8318 or
tompaulson@seattlepi.com.

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« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2008, 09:08:12 am »


             

             Faces of angels from the Debre Birhan Selassie Church in Ethiopia
             watch over visitors to the "Lucy's Legacy" exhibit.









                      'Lucy's Legacy' holds treasures for all ages at the Pacific Science Center






By DOREE ARMSTRONG
SPECIAL TO THE P-I

For such a little girl, she sure has had an enormous impact on the world.

The 1974 discovery of 3 1/2-foot-tall Lucy, the oldest and most complete adult fossil of an erect-walking human ancestor, set the scientific world on its ear. And she's still making us think hard about our place in the world.

Much has already been written about the 3-million-year-old hominid's scientific significance that only adults or older children would understand. But the groundbreaking new exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, "Lucy's Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia," does offer lessons for littler ones. The exhibit will appeal mostly to second grade and up, but younger ones can find interesting parts as well.

While toddlers probably will be bored by the first part of the exhibit, which showcases ancient artifacts such as religious crosses and leather and parchment Korans, enter the interactive area in Room 6 and you'll likely catch their attention. There are buttons to push to activate lights, plastic bones to create a Lucy-size skeleton, and real bones and fossils to touch.
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« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2008, 09:13:33 am »










The exhibit covers 200,000 years in Ethiopia's history. The core exhibit was organized by and first presented at The Houston Museum of Natural Science. It has been greatly expanded here with much more information on the history of Ethiopia, and scientific explanations, such as how to date fossils.

Getting such an important archaeological find out of Ethiopia for the first time and on tour took a lot of work by many people and organizations. Washington state Rep. Helen Sommers was part of the Seattle planning committee and told a preview crowd earlier this week that she was thrilled Lucy was finally here. "I think she's beautiful," Sommers said, adding that everyone should travel to Africa to get a better understanding of our history. "I recommend it strongly."

Lucy's Ethiopian name is Dinkenesh, which means "thou art wonderful." But she acquired the nickname Lucy after the paleoanthropologists who found her celebrated their success with a party complete with Beatles' music, notably "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."

Inside the exhibit, children will be interested to see ancient coins from Aksum, the only African kingdom outside the Roman Empire to issue its own coins, and one of the few to mint coins in gold.

At the Ethiopian Spice Rack, gently squeeze bottles for a strong scent of four pices: berbere, shiro, mitmita and awaze. (Don't put your nose too close or you'll sneeze!)

Push one of six buttons to highlight the correct answer of which of Ethiopia's medicinal plants is used to treat a variety of conditions, including scorpion stings (pterolobium laceras) and flatulence (stephania abyssinica).

In the interactive room, feel the difference between bones and fossils; spin one of two wheels on the Strata Twister to understand how sediment layers are pushed upward and compressed to create fossils; look at a small, rocky area on the ground and see if you can detect the fossils partially buried, then push a button to light up the fossils to see if you're right; and spin a big, clear tube full of sediment on a screen until you see several small fossils.

Children probably will want to spend a fair amount of time assembling the plastic skeleton on a long, low table. Everything you need is there: skull, vertebrae, ribs, hands and feet, femurs, pelvis, shoulder blades, collarbones, etc. Just place the correct bone on top of the picture and you'll eventually have your own little Lucy.

Another fun spot is the Brain Drains, which uses an interesting method to demonstrate the difference in skull size between modern humans and Lucy. Flip each of the three skulls upside down and a bottle of light blue liquid drains into the skull. Compare how much liquid fits into each of the skulls. This area points out that although Lucy's brain was very small, about the size of a chimpanzee's, she was smart enough to walk upright.

A series of skulls in cases line the walkway to the final room where Lucy resides. You'll see Lucy's real bones lying in a case in the center of the room, an upright cast of her bones in another, and a reconstruction of what Lucy might have looked like when she was alive, hair and all.



http://www.archaeologynews.org/link.asp?ID=330799&Title='Lucy's%20Legacy'%20holds%20treasures%20for%20all%20ages%20at%20the%20Pacific%20
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« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2008, 09:22:41 am »




           









                                                            Travelling across Ethiopia






  by Veronika Fillitz

The country that we call Ethiopia contains a region that is said to be the most important in the history of humanity. It is from what is now the capital, Addis Ababa, that archaeologists will tell us that humans migrated around the world.

For such an important place in the story of mankind, my first impressions of Addis Ababa were rather unremarkable - a sprawling city that could be anywhere in Africa with cars and buses and masses of people hanging around public buildings. But this was a stopping off point for me to travel further into some of the rural areas in Ethiopia and to get a glimpse of the work being done
by the doctors, nurses and support teams of Licht für die Welt - the Austrian charity that helps to bring access to eye-care in some of the most remote regions of the world.
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« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2008, 09:26:02 am »



             








Jijiga



  We flew onwards to Jijiga, a city that is East of Addis, near the border to Somalia. And from there I visited a field hospital and saw for myself the work of the eye specialists and the daily challenges they face, patients who needed anything from simple check-ups to more major operations to remove cataracts. I was also invited to go to some villages and this is where I really felt the culture shock begin.

As I walked into one small village, I was greeted on the way by young children who would come up, walk alongside of me and start to chat away in their local language. The fact that I couldn't communicate with them didn't seem to put them off. It just made them want to put more of their questions to their European guest. The colours of the landscape, the houses and the warmth of the people made a great impression on me. Here was a country that had been beset by years of war, poverty and drought yet these people were determined to do their utmost to invite me into their homes and make sure I was fed.
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« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2008, 09:28:41 am »



           








Staying put



  I was also keen to meet and talk with young Ethiopians about what they thought about their futures. I met a young girl who was also a kind of parliamentary speaker for the Ethiopian Youth as well as a young guy who had left home at the age of six and had been sleeping rough as child on the streets until he was befriended and looked after by soldiers. Both of them, along with other young Ethiopians that I met had similar views. Although they had seen many Hollywood movies and enjoyed western music, the thought of upping and leaving and trying to make it in Europe or America was not something they would consider. They all told me they were very proud of Ethiopia and their aspirations of continuing their education were founded on being in their country. Even though it was clear that they and their families didn't have very much in the way of possessions, they were staying put and were cheerful and positive about their future in Ethiopia.
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« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2008, 09:30:49 am »









That really made me think because we are often lead to believe by some politicians and sectors of the press in Europe that all people in developing nations in Africa want to do is get in a boat and come to our shores. Maybe a trip to a place like Ethiopia that has known real poverty would help to modify those ideas; writers who know the continent well echo the view that despite the daily problems they face, most people whether they live in Addis Ababa or Accra have only one major goal - to face up to their own challenges at home and make a brighter future in their own countries.

Hear more about my visit to Ethiopia on FM4's Reality Check: Progress in Africa, today (Saturday) at 12 midday on FM4.
   
 

 
 
     
title: Reality Check: Progress in Africa?
length: 17:35
MP3 (16.846MB) | WMA
     
 
 
   
  Reality Check Special gibt es auch als FM4 Interview Podcast.

Um diesen FM4-Podcast-Feed kostenlos zu abonnieren, kopiere diesen Link in Deinen Podcatcher:

 

Links für [iTunes] und [xml]

Hilfe und allgemeine Informationen zu unseren Podcasts gibt es auch hier.
 


http://www.archaeologynews.org/link.asp?ID=331429&Title=Travelling%20across%20Ethiopia
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