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WP: Museums Refuse To Exhibit Ethiopia's Fragile 'Lucy' Fossil

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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 12:13 AM
Original message
WP: Museums Refuse To Exhibit Ethiopia's Fragile 'Lucy' Fossil
WP: Smithsonian Refuses To Exhibit Ethiopia's Fragile 'Lucy' Fossil
By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 28, 2006; Page C01

Plans for a six-year U.S. tour by "Lucy," one of humanity's earliest known ancestors, have hit a major snag.

Earlier this week the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Ethiopia and the Houston Museum of Natural Science announced an agreement to include Lucy in a tour of several hundred Ethiopian relics. But at least two major U.S. museums now say the bones should not be moved and they don't want to show them.

Rick Potts, the director of the Smithsonian's Human Origins Program and an influential paleoanthropologist, said he and many other scientists agree that Lucy is too fragile to travel. He said the Ethiopian artifacts would not come to the Smithsonian.

The International Association for the Study of Human Paleontology, a group affiliated with UNESCO, passed a resolution in 1998 saying such fossils shouldn't be moved outside the country of origin. The resolution, unanimously approved by representatives of 20 countries, including Ethiopia and the United States, said replicas should be used for public display.

Potts, who has led major excavations in East Africa for more than 25 years, said fossils should be moved from their vaults "only under the most compelling scientific reasons."...A spokesman for the American Museum of Natural History in New York also said that museum would not accept the 3.2-million-year-old fossilized remains....

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20...
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Kagemusha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 12:14 AM
Response to Original message
1. Uh, as long as it's legit and not buckling to radical christians
If the bones really are too fragile then that should be that...
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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 12:15 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Sounds like that's the concern, indeed. nt
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WindRavenX Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 12:15 AM
Response to Original message
2. Why do I have a nagging suspicion that it's because of ID assholes?
Somehow, I think *some* sort of exhibit fit for travel would be made, as many new fossils are indeed too fragile to travel.
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Kagemusha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 12:25 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. Because ID assholes in Africa have been railing against this.
Suspicions are quite natural... the ID assholes in Africa must have plenty of friends in the US.

But hey, that doesn't mean the fragility isn't true. We'll see.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 07:00 AM
Response to Reply #2
19. No, this is about responsible anthropologists
Good for them.
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William Seger Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 09:29 AM
Response to Reply #19
22. Agreed
Not everything is political. Replicas should be used for the tour; they're just as good for showing what the fossils look like.
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spag68 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 12:20 AM
Response to Original message
4. This must be a mistake
The earth is only 6000 years old.
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jeff30997 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 12:30 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. Lol !
Good one!
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Craig3410 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 12:59 AM
Response to Original message
7. My anthropology teacher told me about this...
the bones are really, really brittle, and just moving them could break them.

They're historical, so I'm glad they're not taking a chance.
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Wise Doubter Donating Member (458 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 01:36 AM
Response to Reply #7
9. Plus, sabotage may be a concern....
Religious people become violent for God !
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valerief Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 01:34 AM
Response to Original message
8. Intelligent falling (not gravity) could cause the bones to break. nt
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InvisibleTouch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 02:11 AM
Response to Original message
10. Sounds bogus to me.
Much older dinosaur bones seem to travel just fine.

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w4rma Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 02:43 AM
Response to Reply #10
11. The environment 'Lucy' was found could have put her in worse condition
than a big dinosaur bone found in a tar pit. Also, there are lots of dinosaur bones that have been found so anthropologists can choose the ones in best condition to make any trips.
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happyslug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 09:03 AM
Response to Reply #10
14. Are you talking about bones or fossils?
Remember older fossils are STONE not Bone. What happens is that the bones are covered up by sediment and then rot away leaving a whole in the sediment. Then minerals filtrate through the sediment and collect in the holes. Over time both the Sediment and the minerals compress and turn into stone. Thus Older fossils (i.e. older than Lucy's bones) are all such stone-fossils. These can leave some real good detail as to how the original bones were like, but the fossils are all STONE not Bones and as such can take a lot of punishment.

Newer fossils, like Lucy's bones, are actual bone that have been preserved. As a biological remain they can be quite fragile. I can not remember the exact cutoff (and the cutoff is more a guideline than a deadline) but with Lucy's bones you are getting to the point where most bones have long gone to dust. Her bones were saved by being buried and started into the process of becoming a true fossil, but the bones did NOT stayed covered by Sediment. Instead the sediment eroded away exposing the bones. Once exposed to the elements the bones would have been destroyed by the elements except at that point they bones were discovered and recognized what they were.

My point is, yes much older fossils can be moved for they are STONE not bone, in the case of Lucy the bones had NOT yet started the second step in becoming a fossils (and do to where the bones were found, never would have).
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InvisibleTouch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 11:02 AM
Response to Reply #14
16. I did mean fossils, mineralized bones.
It was my impression that Lucy's bones were at least partially mineralized also. Thanks for the clarification. Still, I presume the bones were coated with a preservative, and I would think with care they could be moved safely. So I suspect the combination of added expense and difficulty in transporting the bones, along with the likely reaction from fundie wackos, is what's putting these museums off. If it were just one concern or the other, they'd probably go for it. I for one hope she does travel, because it certainly would be the chance of a lifetime to "meet" such a venerable ancestor.
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kath Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 11:25 AM
Response to Reply #10
17. Are you sure about that - that dinosaur bones "seem to travel just fine"?
I do know that the exhibit of the tyrannosaurus Sue that is travelling around is a REPLICA. The original remains at Chicago's Field Museum of Naturl History.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 07:05 AM
Response to Reply #17
21. Bingo -- I should have remembered that n/t
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 07:05 AM
Response to Reply #10
20. It's not the age, it's the condition
THere are artifacts 1,000 years old in better shape than Civil War or WWI artifacts, for example.
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Sen. Walter Sobchak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 04:17 AM
Response to Original message
12. I say legit.... sort of.
Edited on Sat Oct-28-06 04:21 AM by policypunk
I worked for a fairly major museum and one of the biggest problems we faced in hosting some major exhibits was insurance. We were dependent on donations for damn near everything - but donations come with alot of strings attached. Wealthy benefactors want their name on a hall or a gallery. They don't want to cut a $90,000 cheque to an insurance company for a show that will be in town for four to six months. I don't even want to imagine what it would cost to insure Lucy!

I suspect that might be the greater issue and not a serious objection to their exhibition. And wouldn't most rather make a claim of principle and virtue than a claim of poverty?

Fact: Most museums are broke.
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 04:28 AM
Response to Original message
13. if they are too fragile --
then they should stay put.
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PassingFair Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 10:19 AM
Response to Original message
15. I Love Lucy!
If she is traveling anyway, and
she IS. I think she should be
making a stop at the Smithsonian.

I'd hate to think you could have
your picture taken with her at the
Mall of America, but miss her in DC.....
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MrPrax Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 01:27 PM
Response to Original message
18. Worthy trade off...?
Irreplaceable artifacts tracing an important element of OUR human species development to pimp a few bucks for regional museum. This form of secular totemism where the being in the mere presence of an object (or animal as in the zoo) imparts knowledge is just plain stupid. Learning is not ALL a visional experience akin to TV -- you actually have to get OFF your ass and read something if you want real education about evolution or whales.

Why not just book BodyWorld -- it they want to give the appearance of education AND make a boatload of money if they are financially strapped.






Let's face it -- wouldn't you rather see that than a bunch of old bones anyhow!! (er--stones)
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DuaneBidoux Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 09:30 AM
Response to Original message
23. I'm in Houston and looking forward to this but if it shouldn't be moved because
of potential damage then I say don't do it!
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