Ethiopia is the cradle of mankind, the birthplace of coffee, the purported resting place of the Ark of the Covenant - and home to legions of Bob Marley fans. Discover five million years of this country's diverse history and culture in the world premiere exhibition 'Lucy's legacy: The hidden treasures of Ethiopia,' on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science from 31 August 2007 - 20 April 2008. The exhibition will include the original fossilised remains of the 3.2 million-year-old hominid known as Lucy. With 40 percent of her skeleton intact, Lucy remains the oldest and most complete adult human ancestor fully retrieved from African soil. Other important palaeoanthropological discoveries will also be represented to complete the current account of human evolution as known to scientists today.
'The display of original artifacts is crucial to the educational impact of museum exhibitions,' said Joel A. Bartsch, president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. 'Anyone can make a copy. But the experience of standing before an authentic historical artifact, whether ancient parchments or multi-million-year-old fossils, is a call to the intellect, to discover more about the world and perhaps even more about yourself. The Lucy fossil in particular evokes a strong response from everyone who sees her, and as such, she is the ultimate goodwill ambassador for Ethiopia. Lucy not only validates Ethiopia's claim as the Cradle of Mankind, she also introduces viewers to the rich cultural heritage that has flourished in Ethiopia over the course of the last 3,000 years, and to the vibrant country that Ethiopia is today.'
The exhibition also explores Ethiopia's recorded human history.
'Ethiopia's natural diversity also extends to the plurality of its peoples,' said His Excellency Ambassador Mohamoud Dirir, Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. 'Her people speak more than 80 languages. Ethiopia is a home to different faiths and religions. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and a number of traditional indigenous beliefs have peacefully coexisted for millennia. These long-stretched and deep-rooted values have made Ethiopia a country known for its proverbial hospitality.'
Explore over 2,000 years of history of the ancient civilisation of Axum, which became the first Christian African nation in the 4th century AD; the people who created the spectacular rock-hewn, underground churches of Lalibela (named after the last king of the Zagwe dynasty) in the 13th century AD; and the stunning architecture of the Royal Enclosure at Gondar, built in the 17th century AD. Discover a dynasty of emperors that ruled Ethiopia through 1974, believed by Ethiopians to represent a direct, unbroken line of descendants of the Queen of Sheba and the biblical King Solomon.
'This exhibition is an opportunity to engender greater appreciation of Ethiopia's multifaceted cultural and scientific heritage,' said Bartsch. 'People all across North America will have the opportunity to better understand current scientific theory of human evolution, and to see for themselves how the discovery of Lucy continues to profoundly influence our understanding of human origins - even 30 years after her discovery.'
More than 100 artifacts illuminate Ethiopia's rich heritage. See early stone tools found in Ethiopia; a wide selection of objects from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church such as illuminated manuscripts and processional crosses; a selection of Korans from the holy city of Harar, the fourth most important site in Islam; and the first coins minted by an indigenous African civilisation. Paintings, musical instruments, implements of daily use, a scale model of the famous Church of St. George in Lalibela and more will also be on display.
After its premiere in Houston, 'Lucy's legacy: The hidden treasures of Ethiopia' will tour to museums throughout the United States.
'What we know about human evolution comes to us from the African continent, and in large part, from Ethiopia,' said Dirk Van Tuerenhout, PhD, curator of anthropology. 'In addition to its importance to human prehistory, the recorded history of Ethiopia has many surprising and fascinating aspects, from its tradition of beautiful art to its diverse religious community. Visitors to 'Lucy's legacy' will have the opportunity to explore all of the intriguing characteristics that make this country unique.'