Lucy, I'm Home!

As a former Stones & Bones student (archaeology, paleoanthropology, ancient history, and geology), seeing the pre-human fossil finds from the Rift Valley was one of my primary interests while visiting Ethiopia. The day after I arrived, I made a beeline to the National Museum to go visit the hominid finds on display. I previously was told that Lucy, one of the oldest (3.2 million years) and near complete finds (40% of a female Australopithecus afarensis), was in the US on a six-year tour of the large museums there. I was bummed. On arriving at the National Museum, I was surprised and excited to discover that she was back in country and available for visitors.

Lucy (AL 288-1) back in her case in the National Museum, Addis Ababa

I was pressed for time and had to move through all the exhibits as quickly as I could. I bypassed all the usual folk art and ethnic exhibits to maximize my time in the paleoanthropological section. I took hurried photos of the displays to analyze further some day down the road, and then left for another attraction in Addis. 

A recreation of the entire skeleton of Lucy. She would have stood 3' 6", was bipedal, but was still capable of moving through the trees.

Five months ago, I submitted a saliva sample to 23andMe for a DNA analysis and a good run down on my heredity. The results were interesting. My haplogroup identification is J1c3I1. My maternal line is J1c3 and my paternal line is I1. Haplogroup J originated about 45,000 years ago on the Arabian Peninsula not long after modern humans expanded out of Africa and onto the Eurasian continent. About 7,000 years ago the expansion of farming carried daughter lineages of J, including J1, into Europe. Today the haplogroup extends as far west as Britain and as far east as Central Asia. 

Haplogroup I1 can be found at levels of 10% and higher in many parts of Europe, due to its expansion with men who migrated northward after the end of the Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. It reaches its highest levels in Denmark and the southern parts of Sweden and Norway. 

The map below shows a depiction of the path of human migration out of Africa, through the Arabian Peninsula, and from there throughout the world. In my case, both my maternal and paternal lines headed to Europe and then recently to North America. 

Paths of human migrations out of Africa..

Paths of human migrations out of Africa..

Looking down at Lucy in that case, I realized that I had returned home, in one sense. I had "migrated" from the US to Europe and Central Asia (where I lived for four years), to Saudi Arabia where I currently reside, and finally to Ethiopia where I glanced down upon this one potential ancestor who was discovered some miles from where I was standing. I had completed a reverse migration, of sorts, and had returned to the source and locality of human development on Earth.