There have been many excavations of the possible ancestors of mankind, on which the grouping of species is based. Lucy is one of the most famous of those excavations.
Donald Johanson, an American anthropologist, studied chimpanzee teeth when he was still a student. In 1973 he took part in an international expedition to the Afar-area. After researching the canyons, which were cut out by the Hadar river system, and the discovery of fossils, the expedition team concluded that the sediments were formed at least 4 million years ago. So these sediments were much older than those found at other locations. If hominid remains were found in Hadar, they would be the oldest remains ever found.
During the first expedition in 1973 Johanson visited the French geologist Maurice Taieb and the French anthropologist Yves Coppens. They had placed their base-camp on the banks of the (during the wet season) fast flowing river the Awash. Months of work produced a few thousand fossils, but only a few of them were hominid, namely four fragments of bones of limbs. Two bones seem to form a knee articulation, which was adapted to walking on two legs. These remains were over 3 million years old.
The man on the left of the picture is Donald Johanson
In the autumn of 1974 several jaws and teeth were discovered, which had both human and anthropoid qualities. One fossilised palate contained sixteen teeth on their original place. A publication of the team mentions:" We have [...] extended our knowledge about the -race with almost 1,5 million years. Every theory about the origin of the race, which leads to the modern man, must be reconsidered." It was over 3 million years ago, that "the Homo-race walked, ate meat and probably used tools for killing animals".
Many palaeontologists remained non-committal. The fossils do show both australopithecine and human qualities, but there weren't any clues about the volume of the brains. Relative large brains should be present to be able to include the fossils in the -race. More and more clues should follow soon, but with a totally different character.
On Christmas Eve 1974 Johanson and his colleague Tom Gray suddenly saw a piece of a hominid arm-bone sticking out of a rocky slope in Hadar. Other fragments were also found in the area. They soon realised that they had made a remarkable discovery. After another three weeks of searching, about two fifths of a female hominid skeleton were stored.
This appeared to be one of the most remarkable discoveries about the human origin. This hominid and her congeners got the scientist name Australopithecus afarensis (southern anthropoid from Afar) in 1978, which at first gave occasion to many disagreements. Generally, she is better known under her nickname 'Lucy', descended from "Lucy in the Sky with the Diamonds", a number of the Beatles, which was played a lot in the camp.