Lucy fossil is up for travel, African leader says

March 9th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

By ERIC BERGER | Houston Chronicle

The president of Ethiopia on Wednesday dismissed the concerns of scientists who worry that Lucy, the famous fossil found in the African country, is too fragile to travel this summer for an exhibition in Houston.

“They are entitled to their opinion,” said Girma Wolde-Giorgis, who visited Houston to complete arrangements for the exhibit, which opens at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Aug. 31.

At 3.2 million years old, Lucy’s bones don’t belong to the oldest human ancestor ever discovered, but hers is among the most complete skeletons recovered. There are several hundred fragments of bone in the collection, representing 40 percent of a single hominin skeleton. Most of the oldest hominin fossils have been found in Ethiopia, Kenya and Chad.

Lucy was found by Case Western University anthropologist Donald Johanson and one of his students, Tom Gray, in November 1974 in Hadar, Ethiopia. The bones were brought to the United States just once, in 1975, when Johanson took them to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for study. They were not publicly exhibited.

“I hope nothing will happen to her,” Wolde-Giorgis said. “Flying across two or three continents does have risk, but several precautions have been taken.”

The decision to display Lucy in the United States “” Wolde-Giorgis said Houston will get the famous fossil first because it had the “courage” to ask “” has prompted criticism from prominent paleontologists. The Smithsonian has refused to participate in the touring exhibition.

Part of the reason is that, in 1998, more than 30 scientists from two dozen countries signed an international agreement not to transport original hominin fossils from their ancestral homelands except for significant scientific reasons.

The Ethiopian government, however, stands to profit from an international exhibition of Lucy, although neither Ethiopia nor the Houston museum has released financial terms of the deal.

Museum spokeswoman Erin Blatzer said it is museum policy not to release financial information on exhibitions.

Mohamoud Dirir, Ethiopia’s minister of culture and tourism, has insisted the money will go toward science museums. But some Ethiopian paleoanthropologists, who say they were not involved in the decision, have expressed concern because they have seen no documents ensuring the funds will be used to promote Ethiopian research.

Wolde-Giorgis declined to allay those concerns on Wednesday. “At this moment we’re not talking about money at all,” he said.

Wolde-Giorgis said his hope for the U.S. exhibition of the bones is to attract tourists to Ethiopia, not only because of its role as a birthplace of humanity but because of its cultural history as both a Christian and a Muslim nation.

“We expect a big number of tourists to visit Ethiopia,” he said. “We have a lot of historic treasures that no other country in the world has.”

  1. gooble
    | #1

    “They are entitled to their opinion,”?….
    They are experts silly man. Their opinions matter. When are we going to start to appreciate experts’ opinions and refrain from parroting such clichés?

  2. j.p.h
    | #2

    If the income out of it was meant for the benefit of Ethiopians, well it is acceptable. The idea of attracting tourists for Ethiopia was also fine.
    But the truth is far from what the “president of Ethiopia” stated.I would rather call him -
    The crime president.
    It is known fact that the “HODAM” was sent by the
    “DRAKULA” dictator to earn money Assigned to buy armours to continue to massacre people With the help of his “AGAZI”- BRUTAL MURCINARIES.

    By the way read the following poem and leave your opinions.

    Man of the year!
    Good to have some body in this difficult time
    In history of the land you are special one
    Your body is perfect with “Metabolic syndrome”?
    Ethiopia has got one to trust, relay upon
    Man of year, no question for every citizen.

    There you have the word “truth”? very strong opponent
    Advising you wisely -”? not to live just to eat”?
    But “to eat just to live -”? not to become too fat
    And acquire “heart attack”?, “˜stroke”? or may be”gout”?
    You should properly think about the land’s fate
    Otherwise leave the throne don’t be an instrument

    Ethiopia is in misery can you cope with the task?
    Or you fill your belly when the enemies attack?
    Your children’s blood flowing-
    can’t you see or just think?
    The Oromo Killings, the Amhara-
    murder or the people of Anuak
    Even Tigre killings among their own struggle-
    or murder in a Bank
    “Mr. Crime president”? opportunist and fake
    Repent your sins and leave better be a good monk.

    Elected true leaders suffering in prison
    Infested by disease inhuman condition
    Accused of “genocide”? and laughable “treason”?
    For they seek true justice for the whole nation
    Even you, your master, who swim in blood ocean
    Honorable they are release them no more pain

    “Mr. Crime president”? let me ask you please this
    What have you done to solve the Addis massacres?
    The hunger of millions the world condemns?
    Corruption and health care the deadly disease AIDS?
    Are you there on the post to just receive commands?
    Or represent the country and million Ethiopians?
    You didn’t proved it Sir don’t decide things for us.

    Are you going to America to thank authorities?
    For Missouri’s church successes in humanitarian aids
    For they make difference in the lives of Ethiopians?
    The task you failed to do as president’s duties?
    Springfield Missouri welcoming the highness
    Be aware “president”? of all the “Habeshas”?
    They have prepared for you big slogans for”?HODAMS”?

    (Anonymous Ethiopian 07/03/2007)

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