Making Lucy: A Paleoartist Reconstructs Long-Lost Human Ancestors



The Job of a Paleoartist

I have an interesting job. Some days it might involve paying a woman to climb up and down a pole naked while I take notes and photographs.

But that’s a terrible way to begin. Let me explain.

When I first learned of Lucy’s discovery, I wanted to build her. Lucy is the name given to a 3.2-million-year-old partial skeleton attributed toAustralopithecus afarensis. It is a wonderful endeavor to seek answers to questions about how she lived, but seeing her as she may have appeared in life can make a connection for us that nothing else can foster.

My first chance to build Lucy’s body came in 1996, when the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (then Natural History) asked me to produce a life-sized, three-dimensional reconstruction, as lifelike as current methods would allow.

If her skeleton was properly articulated, and I used the muscle attachment sites visible on her bones to build her body muscle by muscle, what kind of creature would emerge?


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