Scientists: ‘Lucy’ Died From Tree Fall

“Lucy,” the early human ascendant whose fossilized remains are one of archaeology’s most significant discoveries, may have died more than 3 million years ago after falling from a tree. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin analyzed fossils belonging to Lucy that are on display at a museum in Frankfurt, Germany, but were originally discovered in Ethiopia more than 40 years ago. “I have taught this fossil since I was a grad student in the 1980s,” said John Kappelman, the lead author of the new study. “I knew these fractures were there. I just never thought to ask what had caused them. No one, as far as I know, has ever put out a theory of how she died.” The paleoanthropologist who discovered and named Lucy, however, disagrees with the findings. Donald Johanson says the fractures on her bones are “undoubtedly the result of geological forces acting on the bones after they are buried during the process of fossilization.”