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  • Writer's pictureTerri Tomoff

Travel + Adventure = Healing - Ethiopia - 6 - Lucy Museum

With a population of 110 million people, Ethiopia represents a melting pot of ancient cultures. Middle Eastern and African customs through the centuries are evident in their religious compositions, ethnicity, and languages spoken throughout this great land. Approximately 85% of the people live in rural areas —the 10th largest country in Africa and the second most populous country after Nigeria.

What I found interesting while touring in the city and countryside is that no matter where one is born or where one's station in life is, Ethiopians are immensely proud of their heritages, which date back millions of years. Most are deeply religious and happy (or so it seemed to me) while visiting three areas of the country.

One reason could be that the oldest remains of a human ancestor, dated nearly five million years old, were discovered in the Awash Valley. So this beats “Lucy,” a 3.2 million-year-old skeleton I visited in the stark and dingy basement of the National Museum of Ethiopia. While creating this series, I checked to see if they have a website in the (5) years since I visited it. Nope, but if you are interested in Lucy, here is the link to the Lonely Planet and its explanation. Actual remains are under lock and key, and what the public views of Lucy, an Australopithecus afarensis, is a replica. But...I was excited, and my skin was tingling to see this ancient replica wonder!

Although this Ethiopian capital museum claims to be a state-of-the-art facility built especially for Lucy and the many thousands of other fossils it contains, it is not like the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC, or other state-of-the-art facilities in the US or around the world. That’s the beauty of traveling and learning about the cultures and what makes each country or location tick. Anyone can have a different opinion on the state of the art, right?

This proud National Museum was good enough for me. Lucy, small and diminutive at about three ft. tall, and other remains/artifacts were discovered and unearthed in 1974 by paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson in the same area. The difference between Lucy, or Dinknesh (meaning ‘you are amazing’ in Amharic), and other remains is that she is the most complete skeleton of an early human ancestor ever discovered.

The day my guide, Free, took me there on the first full day in Addis, the electricity went out as I paid the nominal entrance fee. Besides “Lucy,” The National Museum of Ethiopia houses the Throne of Emperor Haile Selassie and other incredible artifacts. It was up to me to wait it out since the most exclusive item, Lucy, was in the basement with no natural light. Everyone enters on the first floor, which has windows and natural light. While getting to know Free a little more and checking out the first-floor artifacts with abundant natural light with her, the lights came back on for us to descend the stairs to check out the most iconic piece in the museum. It was not crowded at all, so I was able to get up close and "personal."

In fact, Lucy is well-loved throughout Ethiopia, so much so that the women’s football (soccer) team is nicknamed Lucy in her honor. What a lovely tribute!

It is no secret that Africa is the origin of all humankind (Kenya or other African nations may differ in ideologies, but Ethiopians claim that everyone has roots in Ethiopia!

Photos: 1) Free and Me, 2) In front of the National Museum of Ethiopia, 3) Lucy's small bones.


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