Arizona State University’s Institute of Human Origins (ASU IHO) recently hosted the “What was Lucy’s Impact on Human Origins? Lucy 50th Anniversary Symposium.”

Zeray spoke in the morning session, presenting “Lucy’s children and human origins.” His abstract reads “Owing to its morphological and temporal placement, the Lucy species, Australopithecus afarensis, plays a pivotal role in our understanding of the human evolutionary career. Though many more fossil remains were recovered subsequent to Lucy’s discovery, the impact of the latter cannot be overstated not least its role as a trove of scientific data as well as its iconic nature. Research on Lucy and its species and continued fieldwork have inspired many research projects across Africa especially the Afar region of Ethiopia. One such project is the Dikika Research Project, which has discovered the earliest and most complete skeleton of a juvenile A. afarensis, dating back to 3.32 million years ago, filling in a major gap in our knowledge of the species. Here, I will briefly discuss what we learn from this skeleton about the Lucy species and what that implies to our knowledge of the many descendants of A. afarensis including our own species.”

Zeray presenting at Lucy's 50th Anniversary Symposium

Zeray was among many prominent scientists and contributors, including in no particular order: ASU IHO’s Donald Johanson (Founding Director), Yohannes Haile-Selassie (Director), Kaye Reed, Kim Hill, and research scientists Christopher Campisano, Curtis Marean, Kathnryn Ranhorn, and Denise Su; Ian Tattersall (Curator Emeritus at American Museum of Natural History), Bernard Wood (George Washington University), Carol Ward (University of Missouri), Tracy Kivell (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology), Jessica Thompson (Yale University), Anna K. Behrensmeyer (Smithsonian Institution), Melissa Emery Thompson (University of New Mexico), Andra Meneganzin (Kaatholieke Universiteit Leuven), Job Kibii (National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi), and Ann Gibbons (Science Magazine).

Speakers were not only able to summarize the knowledge gained within their fields of study since Lucy’s discovery but also to answer questions from the audience. Attendants were additionally invited to social functions where they could catch up with colleagues and check in with long-time friends. Not all of these moments were captured with photographs, but here are a few (granted with permission).

Zeray and Yohannes at the Lucy 50 event

Zeray and Yohannes Haile-Selassie

Zeray and Bernard at the Lucy 50 event

Zeray with Bernard Wood

Zeray, Donald Johanson, and Kaye Reed at the Lucy 50 event

Zeray with Don Johanson and Kaye Reed

The symposium was held the same day as a public outreach event some of our lab members attended. Due to serendipitous timing, they were able to catch Zeray’s talk during a lunch break. (More on that event in a future post.)

Alemseged Lab members at a public outreach event catch Zeray's talk via zoom during lunch

The event was inspiring in its depth of coverage and consolidation of where paleoanthropology is now, fifty years post-discovery of Australopithecus afarensis. ASU released a news article highlighting moments of the event here. You can view each presentation at IHO’s Youtube channel here. We’d like to thank everyone who made it happen, from the event organizers on site to the research teams across the world. We are looking forward to what future discoveries and interpretations lie ahead!