During President Obama’s historic trip to Africa, he had the opportunity to view one of our “ancestors” whose discovery was of huge significance to humankind.
While at Ethiopia’s National Palace on Monday, POTUS met “Lucy,” the 3.2-million-year-old partial skeleton of a hominid — an early ancestor to humans, Reuters reported. While Obama observed the skeleton, Zeresenay Alemseged, senior curator of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences informed the president that Lucy, whose species human beings evolved from, shows that all human beings are connected.
For the president, the fact spoke to a deeper meaning.
“We honor Ethiopia as the birthplace of humankind. In fact, I just met Lucy, our oldest ancestor,” Obama said at a state dinner later that day, reflecting on the experience, according to Reuters. “When you see our ancestor … we are reminded that Ethiopians, Americans, all the people of the world are part of the same human family, the same chain.”
Lucy, whose name is inspired by the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” (which was playing during celebrations following the skeleton discovery), is from the Australopithecus afarensis species. The skeleton, which was discovered back in 1974 in Ethiopia, is usually kept at the country’s National Museum but was transported to the palace for Obama’s viewing, the Guardian reported. During the experience, POTUS learned about the skeleton and was even allowed to touch a vertebra from Lucy’s torso — a rare privelege, typically only designated for scientists.
“As one of the professors who was describing the artifacts correctly pointed out, so much of the hardship and conflict and sadness and violence that occurs around the world is because … we look at superficial differences as opposed to seeing the fundamental connection that we all share,” Obama said at the state dinner, according to the Guardian.
The president has since concluded his two-country visit to Africa, leaving Ethiopia on Tuesday.