Lucy fossil returns to Addis Ababa

The celebrated 3.2 million-year old Ethiopian fossilised skeleton known as “Lucy” has returned to Addis Ababa after five years on tour in the US.

The fossil of the earliest known hominid left Ethiopia in 2007 after an agreement was reached between Ethiopia's culture ministry and America’s Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Along with almost 150 other artefacts, Lucy travelled to 11 cities in the US under the theme "Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia". Prior to the tour many archaeologists claimed the 1-m long skeleton was too fragile to travel.

The fossil tour generated $1.5 million – destined to be spent on rejuvenating Ethiopia’s museums – and was a major factor in increasing tourism to Ethiopia in recent years, according to culture and tourism minister Amin Abdulkadir.

The original Lucy fossil and its accompanying tour is on show at the National Museum until 14 May before being put on display at the African Union (AU) Summit from 19-27 May. Following the AU summit the fossils will be returned to their special vault at the museum which has replicas of its most valuable artefacts on permanent display.

Discovered by American scientist Donald C. Johanson in the remote Afar region in north-east Ethiopia in 1974, Lucy was found to contain 40 per cent of the skeleton of Australopithecus Aphaeresis – a distant precursor to the Homo sapiens which scientists estimated lived 3.2 million years ago.