Monday, June 09, 2008

Concerns About Lucy

The headline reads "Is an Ethiopian National Treasure Being Exploited for Money?" Well, yes. Concerns still exist about the idea of shuttling the bones of AL-288, otherwise known as "Lucy" around the world. As the story in the Tampa Bay Tribune notes:

Citing ethical problems and a conviction that Lucy's fragile remains should not travel, The Smithsonian refused an exhibition. Richard Leakey, a renowned fossil scientist, said "It's a form of prostitution ... it's a gross exploitation of the ancestors of humanity."

The real Lucy remains in its vault here, the consensus goes in Addis Ababa, and a replica was sent to America. The final word rests with a tall thin museum guard in a green semi-uniform who said in the Amarigna language to the trekkers' translator, "Who would be so stupid to take that risk?"

Well, off the top of my head, I can think of a gazillion people, to whom Lucy is only a ticket to more revenue. This is no different than what was done with the European Neandertal remains by Otto Hauser at the turn of the century, or the Homo erectus skull discovered in a Manhattan curio shop. To many people, the fossil record is only a ticket to money and fame.

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