Obama meets Lucy, an ancient 'ancestor,' in Ethiopia

Mon Jul 27, 2015 5:38pm EDT
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By Jeff Mason

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Barack Obama came to Africa partially to connect with the continent of his forefathers.

On Monday, he met an ancestor of an altogether different kind: "Lucy," the 3.2 million-year-old partial skeleton of a hominid discovered in Ethiopia.

"That's amazing," the U.S. president said of the bones, which were brought specially for him to view from a museum to the National Palace, where he was attending a state dinner.

Obama is on a two-country tour of Africa that started in Kenya, where his father was born. He arrived in Ethiopia on Sunday and returns to the United States on Tuesday.

Scientists told reporters the valuable partial skeleton was transported secretly and under tight security out of its museum. Obama was invited to touch one of the bones, something usually only permitted for scientists.

"We honor Ethiopia as the birthplace of humankind. In fact, I just met Lucy, our oldest ancestor," Obama told attendees at the state dinner later in the evening.

"When you see our ancestor ... we are reminded that Ethiopians, Americans, all the people of the world are part of the same human family, the same chain," Obama said to applause.

A little bit of politics crept in to the moment, as well.   Continued...

Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged Lemseged (2ndR), of the California Academy of Sciences,  directs U.S. President Barack Obama (R) to touch a fossilized vertebra of Lucy, an early human, before a State Dinner in Obama's honor at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst