Dinknesh - a peek into the history of humankind
Where was Dinknesh found? She was discovered near the Ethiopian village of Hadar in the Afar Triangle, a geographical depression that is part of the Great Rift Valley.
Why is Dinknesh famous? Dinknesh probably lived 3.2 million years ago. When her fossilized bones were excavated in 1974, she was hailed as the oldest early human — or hominin — ever found. Scientists also found 40 percent of her bones, making her the most complete skeleton of an early human species. Dinknesh belonged to a new species, which was given the scientific name Australopithecus afarensis ('southern ape from afar' in Latin). By studying Dinknesh, scientists learned much about human evolution, such as how these hominins moved.
But Dinknesh was an ape, wasn't she? Dinknesh was not an ape. She is more closely related to modern humans than to modern apes. And she already had some humanlike features. The study of her bones showed she was already capable of walking upright — although she probably felt more comfortable on trees than the ground.
How old was Dinknesh? By looking at her teeth, bone development and vertebrae, scientists believe Dinknesh was a young, but fully mature adult when she died.
How did Dinknesh get her names? Donald Johanson and Tom Gray, the American scientists who found Dinknesh, celebrated their discovery at their camp by listening to
the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." This is how the unique fossil got its first name, Lucy. Her other, more recent name is Dinknesh, which means "you are marvelous" in Amharic, Ethiopia's official language. Alas, her first name is so popular that "Dinknesh" is not commonly known outside her home country.