I got to see Lucy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science this week - free entry as a part of a science education leadership meeting - along with a tour by the exhibit's curator, Dirk Van Tuerenhout. Dirk is a great tour guide - knows his stuff inside and out and throws in the funniest commentary.
(Side note - it was great to see my former colleagues during my visit - waves to Joel, Dirk, David and Larissa.)
The exhibit is in town through April 20, 2008 and it is a must see. This is something I never imagined I would experience and it really was a thrill. Lucy has only been on exhibit twice in her home country - Ethiopia. It's impossible to describe gazing down at her 40% complete fossilized skeleton, knowing she was a living, breathing being on our planet 3.2 million years ago, and part of our human family "bush."
You have to discard the notion of a human family tree and understand that there were many ancestral lines that died out, with only one that led to our current species - homo sapiens sapiens (which as Dirk pointed out, means "human smart smart - in case you didn't get it, we are very smart!). Lucy was an Australopithecus afarensis, not human, but able to walk upright, was around three and a half feet tall and weighed 60-65 pounds.
Dirk reminded us that in our DNA is an archive of all of our ancestors - the common primate ancestor we all have and way back beyond that.
Read more about Lucy at Dirk's blog.