Obama meets an old ancestor under tight security

  • People
  • Thursday, 30 Jul 2015

US President Barack Obama touching a bone fragment of Lucy, a 3.2 million-year-old hominid discovered in 1974 by American paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson in Ethiopia. Alongside Obama are Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (right) and Zeresenay Alemseged (second from left), head of the California Academy of Sciences. Photo: AFP

Barack Obama came to Africa partially to connect with the continent of his forefathers.

On July 26, he met an ancestor of an altogether different kind: "Lucy", the 3.2 million-year-old partial skeleton of a hominid discovered in Ethiopia in 1974.

"That's amazing," the US 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 was on a two-country tour of Africa that started in Kenya, where his father was born. He arrived in Ethiopia on July 26 and returned

to the United States on July 28.

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 honour Ethiopia as the birthplace of humankind. In fact, I just met Lucy, our oldest ancestor," Obama told attendees of a state dinner on the last day of his visit.

"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.

One of the scientists showing the bones to Obama referenced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman who claimed for a long time that Obama was not born in the United States.

"It shows that every single person here, seven billion people, including Donald Trump, came down through the chain," said Zeresenay Alemseged, referring to Lucy's place in the evolution of humankind. – Reuters/Jeff Mason

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