Australopithecus afarensis

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Australopithecus afarensis
Australopithecus afarensis UNM.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Australopithecus afarensis

Australopithecus afarensis skull reconstruction.jpg
Skull reconstruction

Australopithecus africanus is a species of australopithecines that are believed to be man's earliest ancestors, but which are commonly viewed by creationists as being merely apes.


Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) cast from Museum national d'histoire naturelle, Paris

An Australopithecine named Lucy was discovered by Donald Johanson in 1973, near Hadar in Ethiopia. The name Lucy was derived from the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", which was playing in the camp the night after the fossil was discovered. Johanson also called the collective fossils from the area the "First Family", helping to popularize the find as early humans.

Initially only a knee-joint was found, which he believed was 3 million years old, based on the animal fossils in the area. A 40%-complete skeleton of a 3.5 ft tall female was later discovered in another location sixty to seventy meters higher in the strata and two to three kilometers away.

The claim that Lucy walked upright was largely based on the appearance of the leg and hip bone. However, like all australopithecines, Lucy has long forearms and short hind legs. Australopithecines also have curved finger and long curved toes. Curved fingers and toes in extant primates are readily recognized as having no other purpose other than full or part time arboreal (tree-dwelling) life.

Kevin Anderson cites an interview aired in a Nova Episode in which Dr. Own Lovejoy reported that the anatomy of Lucy's hipbone was more like primate than human anatomy. He presumed that this was because the pelvic bone was damaged and reshaped a cast of the bone to give it a more human shape. Anderson points out the circularity of using assumptions of human evolution for the reconstruction and then using it as evidence for evolution.[1]

It should also be noted that bipedal walking is common among living Gorillas and some Chimpanzees. However, this mode is not truly bipedal, and is more accurately referred to as knuckle-walkers. Living nonhuman primates and australopithecines are probably analogous in this regard and neither can therefore be considered any closer to humans than the other.

Another challenge to Lucy was discovered in the Tugen Hills of Kenya in the year 2000. The specimen was alleged to show capability for walking upright -- and was dated 3 million years earlier than Lucy.[2]


Charles Oxnard, former director of graduate studies and professor of anatomy at the University of Southern California Medical School, who subjected australopithecine fossils to extensive computer analysis stated: "The australopithecines known over the last several decades from Olduvai and Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat, are now irrevocably removed from a place in a group any closer to humans than to African apes and certainly from any place in a direct human lineage. All this should make us wonder about the unusual presentation of human evolution in introductory textbooks, in encyclopedias and in popular publications. In such volumes not only are australopithecines described as being of known bodily size and shape, but as possessing such abilities as bipedality and tool-using and -making and such developments as the use of fire and specific social structures. Even facial features are happily (and non-scietifically) reconstructed.". (The Order of Man: A Biomathematical Anatomy of the Primates, p332.)


  1. What Is New Is Old Again. Editorial by Kevin Anderson. CRSQ 45(4):pp241-242. Spring 2009.
  2. Chimp-sized hominid walked upright on two legs six million years ago by Barbara Hale, Penn State University. Eurek Alert, September 2, 2004.


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