Palaeontologist

9782738121318

On January 29, 2018, Yves Coppens, a famous anthropologist and palaeontologist, came to speak to 4eme students about his life’s work. He is best known for being part of the team of scientists who discovered Lucy, the skeleton of one of the earliest bipedal human ancestors. He has written many books on the subject, and even produced a film.

During his talk, he told us three stories about his discoveries:

La première histoire remonte à son adolescence. Avec un groupe d’amis, le célèbre paléontologue est allé sur une île. Ils ont creusé sur le côté est de la colline et ont découvert un couloir. Au bout du couloir, ils ont de nouveau creusé. Comme il était le plus maigre, Yves Coppens est rentré dans la pièce par la fente faite par ses amis. Il se trouva que c’était une salle sépulcrale du néolithique.

La deuxième histoire se passe avec un animal bien particulier, le mammouth. Alors qu’il travaillait dans les réserves de la Musée d’histoire naturel de Paris, Yves Coppens découvrit un carton avec des os. Des os de quoi? De mammouth! Cadeau de la Russie en 1912, les os resteront dans la boite pendant plus de 40 ans, avant d’être redécouverts par M. Coppens en 1956. Il monta le squelette du mammouth, qui se trouve encore dans le musée.

The last story, the one he is most known for, is Lucy’s. In 1974, Yves Coppens, along with a group of other scientists, discovered 40% of a female Australopithecus afarensis, whom they named Lucy. Based on her remains, they figured out that she could not only climb, but could also walk on two feet, unlike her predecessors. Lucy, who lived around 3.2 million years ago, was approximately 110 cm tall and was a young, but fully developed adult when she died.

We found the encounter with Yves Coppens enriching and instructive. We not only learned about his own experiences, but also about many other things like carbon 14 dating, menhirs, dolmens and archeology. We thoroughly enjoyed Yves Coppens’ fabulous storytelling, and did not see the time pass while he was talking to us. We even had the chance to touch one of Lucy’s bones and a mammoth tooth and hairs!

Alessia and Clarisse, 4e

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