Best Digger (2011)

Donald Johanson

In 1974, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson unearthed a revolutionary fossil in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia: the 3.18-million-year-old remains of a female hominid known today as Lucy. Johanson and graduate student Tom Gray were about to return to their camp after long hours of searching for fossilized remains when, on a whim, Johanson insisted on checking a nearby gully one more time. As luck (or instinct?) would have it, they noticed human bone fossils and returned later that day to uncover the remains of a skeleton of Australopithecus afarensis, at that time the oldest upright walking humanoid known to man. At the celebration held by the expedition that night, a recording of The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was played over and over again, inspiring the skeleton's name. In 1981, Johanson established the Institute of Human Origin in Berkeley, California, which was moved to Arizona State University in 1997 — and that is how the Valley came to be home to the man who discovered one of the world's most famous women.


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