The French paleoanthropologist Yves Coppens, one of the discoverers of the famous hominid “Lucy”, considered for years as the oldest ancestor of man, died this Wednesday at the age of 87, reported his editorial.
Born in Britain on August 9, 1934, the son of a nuclear physicist, Coppens was always clear that he wanted to study the most hidden part of history.
In 1974, together with his colleagues Donald Johanson and Maurice Taieb, while excavating in the Afar Valley in Ethiopia, they found an almost complete skeleton of a female individual dated at 3.2 million years old, which they decided to name Lucy because they were listening. The Beatles song “Lucy in the sky with diamonds”.
For years it was considered that Lucy was a direct ancestor of “homo sapiens”, until other discoveries led Coppens himself to think that it was another species, the Austrolopithecus afarensis.
This finding was recognized worldwide and marked a before and after in current knowledge about prehistory and paleontology.
Lucy’s discovery was especially important because her bones showed signs of being bipedal, that is, standing upright and walking on two limbs, one of the defining characteristics in the development of human beings.
Coppens was also a professor emeritus at the Collge de France, one of the world’s most prestigious educational and research institutions.
The paleontologist participated in excavations in various countries around the world, such as in Tunisia, Algeria and Ethiopia, and throughout his life he published numerous books recounting his discoveries.
Coppens, who also dedicated himself to teaching and researching the roots of human beings, was fascinated by history, especially prehistory, from an early age, when he already showed his passion for excavations.
A dedication that took him to many corners of the planet and that made him a popular face in France, where his white beard and mustache appeared in the media to publicize his findings.
A collaborator of two presidents, Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, who appealed to his wisdom during their mandates, Coppens presided over several scientific institutions in the country and published a thousand articles.
“We have a unique origin: we are all Africans by origin, born three million years ago, and that should encourage us to brotherhood,” he said.