Isle Of Lucy 8

Over the weekend I went to the Pacific Science Center to view the “Lucy” exhibit. The fossil was the first discovered Australopithecus afarensis and is designated AL 288-1 in the catalog. Lucy is 3.2 million years old and is a crucially important specimen as she reflects bipedal posture but has the smaller cranial capacity associated with apes. This fossil is considered extremely fragile, to the degree that the Smithsonian declined to accept it for display on its US tour.

The balance of the “Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia ” exhibit contains historical and cultural artifacts from Ethiopia. Some of the displays reflect the varied history of this unconquered African nation proudly reflecting that is the birthplace of coffee and Rastafarianism, and is reputed to be the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

One gallery contains several comparative studies in anatomy and locomotion, exiting onto a nicely designed ramp exhibit with display cases containing skulls of hominids, starting with very early species and moving forward through time as you ascend the ramp. All the items on display are quite interesting, but the star of the attraction is held until the final gallery.

If you have not viewed this exhibit I’d strongly recommend getting tickets before it leaves Seattle on March 8. You may never get a chance to see this fossil again.

8 thoughts on “Isle Of Lucy

  1. Reply Gil Feb 17,2009 10:58 pm

    Nice title.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the exhibit, but is it really that much better than reading the same material and seeing pictures? Is there something magical about being in the room with the actual artifacts? Is there some detail that you were only able to see this way that changed your understanding of the subject?

  2. Reply john Feb 18,2009 4:06 pm

    The title was definitely influenced by your previous comment. Credit where it’s due.
    I’m tempted to say it’s important to view such an exhibit in person because you’re THERE where the artifact is. Although I’d also say that you get a better experience of some things via photographs or video.
    I guess what makes the Lucy exhibit worth seeing in person is that the fossil is so small and delicate. It really puts the scientific importance into perspective. I found it fascinating and thrilling to see it in person, and it gave me a profound sense of the time that has passed… 3.2 million years that such a priceless scientific link had lain in the Earth. Then when nobody was looking I put a timex wristwatch on her. Let the paleontologists figure THAT one out.

  3. Reply Yancy Moore Feb 19,2009 9:49 am

    My wife and I will be seeing “Lucy” in the near future.I am very interested in evolution vs. creation.While at the exibit,is there anything I should pay attention to that will assit me with a better understanding?

  4. Reply Terri Feb 19,2009 1:25 pm

    Thoughtful comments on Lucy. I’ve been twice to the exhibit and have to go again. I spent so much time contemplating the earlier parts of the exhibit (the history and culture of Ethiopia) that I haven’t had time to examine fully the last galleries leading to Lucy herself. The whole exhibit is extremely well done — your words “fascinating and thrilling to see it in person” describes it perfectly.

  5. Reply Gil Feb 19,2009 1:36 pm

    Okay, I accept that having the opportunity to put the wristwatch on her justifies actually being there.

    Otherwise, it seems more like a common, but irrational, ritual.

    It reminded me of a blog post about sentimental attachment I wrote a long time ago: http://areasonableman.com/archives/2006/09/entry_466.html

  6. Reply omma Feb 19,2009 5:18 pm

    Being THERE grants a perspective and a palpability that cannot be duplicated by photographs, video, electronic or any other media form. Much is possible in a virtual world, but the actual experience is not. That in itself is the essence of why Lucy made this long journey through both history and geography, so that we might marvel at her significance. I appreciate the addition of things electronic in my life. But actual experience is valuable in a very intrinsic way. I’m so pleased at the opportunity to travel through time with one of my presumed ancestors. Thanks to Ethiopia and the Science Center for making that possible.

  7. Reply john Feb 20,2009 10:53 am

    When I was in Italy a few years ago I didn’t bother to take any pictures inside the Vatican or its museums including the Sistine Chapel. You can buy better commercial photographs than most of us will ever be able to take, and there isn’t time or room to set up a camera to get a good picture since you can’t use flash. Plus, there are really well-produced travelogs that provide better access to normally off-limit areas. So, was it worth seeing in person? Of course. As long as you value that kind of experience. The Grand Canyon is worth seeing in person. It’s gobsmacking. But you obviously cannot take it in from a single perspective, so you need those travelog helicopter shots to augment what your own eyes can see.
    One could draw parallels between live theater and movies. My point is that it’s worth seeing things from you own perspective sometimes rather than through the eyes of an editor or director. Chances are I’ll never get to outer space, the bottom of the ocean, or many parts of the Earth. So my only experience will be that which is provided via carefully edited media. I have a particular fondness for dinosaurs and fossils in general so my perspective is that it’s worth seeing them.
    Gil’s article on emotional attachment is well written. He’s one of the most intelligent and insightful people I know, and he always brings a great perspective to discussion.

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