Fossil Australopithecus Afarensis

Australopithecus afarensis is an extinct hominid which lived between 3.9 and 2.9 million years ago. A. afarensis was slenderly built, like the younger Australopithecus africanus. It is thought that A. afarensis was ancestral to both the genus Australopithecus and the genus Homo, which includes the modern human species, Homo sapiens. The most famous fossil is the partial skeleton named Lucy by Donald Johanson and colleagues, after they played the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" over and over in celebration of their find.

Australopithecus afarensis fossils have only been discovered within Eastern Africa. Despite Laetoli being the type locality for A. afarensis, the most extensive remains assigned to the species are found in Hadar, Afar Region of Ethiopia, including the above-mentioned "Lucy" partial skeleton and the "First Family" found at the AL 333 locality. Other localities bearing A. afarensis remains include Omo, Maka, Fejej and Belohdelie in Ethiopia, and Koobi Fora and Lothagam in Kenya. Read more ...

Facial Reconstruction


In the News ...

Strange pelvis of our 4.4 million-year-old ancestor 'Ardi' reveals the hominid could walk upright like a human and climb trees like an ape   Daily Mail - April 3, 2018
The study helps settle a long-standing debate about how quickly our ancestors began to amble like humans and shows that ancient hominins didn't have to sacrifice their nimble climbing skills to walk upright.

'Ardi' skull reveals links to human lineage   PhysOrg - January 6, 2014

One of the most hotly debated issues in current human origins research focuses on how the 4.4 million-year-old African species Ardipithecus ramidus is related to the human lineage. "Ardi" was an unusual primate. Though it possessed a tiny brain and a grasping big toe used for clambering in the trees, it had small, humanlike canine teeth and an upper pelvis modified for bipedal walking on the ground.

Ardi: Human-like fossil find is breakthrough of the year   BBC - December 18, 2009

The discovery of a fossilized skeleton that has become a "central character in the story of human evolution" has been named the science breakthrough of 2009. The 4.4 million year old creature, that may be a human ancestor, was first described in a series of papers in the journal Science in October. It has now been recognized by the journal's editors as the most important scientific accomplishment of this year. It is part of a scientific top 10 that ranges from space science to genetics. The first fossils of the species, Ardipithecus ramidus, were unearthed in 1994. Scientists recognized their importance immediately. But the very poor condition of the ancient bones meant that it took researchers 15 years to excavate and analyze them.

  Before 'Lucy,' there was 'Ardi': Oldest hominid skeleton provides new evidence for human evolution   PhysOrg - October 1, 2009

Discovery in Ethiopia casts light on human origins   Science Daily - October 1, 2009

The skeleton of an early human who lived 4.4 million years ago shows that humans did not evolve from chimpanzee-like ancestors, researchers reported on Thursday. The 4-foot (1.2 meter) tall, 110 pound creature is a million years older than "Lucy" -- the skeleton of another species called Australopithecus afarensis that is one of the best-known pre-humans.

Ardi's Secret: Did Early Humans Start Walking for Sex?   National Geographic - October 1, 2009
The big news from the journal Science today is the discovery of the oldest human skeleton - a small-brained, 110-pound (50-kilogram) female of the species Ardipithecus ramidus, nicknamed "Ardi." She lived in what is now Ethiopia 4.4 million years ago, which makes her over a million years older than the famous Lucy fossil, found in the same region 35 years ago. Buried among the slew of papers about the new find is one about the creature's sex life. It makes fascinating reading, especially if you like learning why human females don't know when they are ovulating, and men lack the clacker-sized testicles and bristly penises sported by chimpanzees.

Oldest "Human" Skeleton Refutes "Missing Link"   National Geographic - October 1, 2009
An artist's reconstruction of the face of Ardipithecus ramidus was made possible by a digital reconstruction of skull parts from two individuals. The face of "Ardi" did not project as much as those of modern apes, but was not as flat and massive as the later australopithecines. Researchers who studied the species suggest this difference is related to the small size of the species' incisor teeth compared to those of chimps. Based on the relatively small size of its brow ridge and canine teeth, scientists suggest this fossil is of a female.