Case Closed: Lucy’s Death

Joanah Diala, Editor-In-Chief

Lucy is the world’s most well-known fossil. She was discovered in 1974 in Ethiopia and for the past 42 years she has been studied extensively, but it was not until recently that we figured out the mystery of her death.

Lucy is important because she gave us an insight of what life was like for our early human ancestors 3 millions years ago. The discovery of Lucy’s death allows us to reflect on how truly lucky we are to be living in today’s age. Life 3 million years ago, if you didn’t die from being a tasty meal, you’d die falling from 46 foot tall trees.

Lucy was part of the hominin species, which is a close relative species of homosapiens. Lucy’s kind were estimated to only be about 3 feet tall and weighed about 60 pounds. This made them perfect prey for predators such as hyenas and saber toothed cats. Because of all the threats that put their lives in danger, it was only natural for our 3 foot tall ancestors to turn to trees for safety.

Based on Lucy’s skeleton, her bones showed clear and clean breaks. John Kappelman, who is the lead professor of the research conducted on her cause of death, consulted with 9 orthopedic surgeons and they all associated the fractures with falling injuries.

The new evidence suggests that falling from a 46 foot tall tree was the cause of Lucy’s death. Based on the fractures on Lucy’s bones, Kappelman and his team made the hypothesis that Lucy fell to her death conscious. Lucy fell feet first, fracturing her ankles, her knees and her hips. To try and break the fall, Lucy reaches her arms forward which caused her to fracture her shoulders as well. The fractured bones punctured her internal organs and upon impact, Lucy twisted her body which caused her to fracture her neck. That was Lucy’s last moment, who died a painful death.