French paleoanthropologist Yves Coppens – WikiCommons
French paleontologist Yves Coppins, famous for discovering in Ethiopia in 1974 the skeleton of Lucy, the ancestors of humans dating back about 3.2 million years, the most famous Australopithecus afarensis, died today at the age of 87 after a long illness. Coppins is considered the “father of prehistory”, who revolutionized thanks to dozens of discoveries in paleobiology over the course of more than half a century. In October 2021, he organized a workshop on symbolism and the religious sense in man from the beginning at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, of which he has been a member since 2014.
He was Professor Emeritus of Ancient and Prehistoric Anthropology at the College de France, Director Emeritus of the Musée du Manne in Paris, and a member of scientific institutions around the world, including the Royal Academy of Sciences, the European Academy, the Royal Belgian Academy, the National Academy of Sciences in Rome and the Institut Royal Anthropology.
Born in Vans on August 9, 1934, Coppins began his research first in Brittany while in high school and then at the Sorbonne in Rennes in Paris, where he studied geology, zoology, botany, and palaeontology. In 1956 he joined the French National Center for Scientific Research and dealt with distant periods and distant countries, particularly the borders of the Third and Quaternary eras in the tropics of the Old World. Beginning in 1960, he organized important expeditions first on his own in Chad, then in international cooperation, in Ethiopia (Omo Valley and Afar Basin) as well as numerous expeditions in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritania, South Africa, Indonesia, the Philippines, China and Siberia. His research focused on the paleontology of vertebrates (proboscis, hippos), their formation and importance to paleoenvironments, climate, biology, as well as paleoanthropology. The fruit of those expeditions is remarkable: tens of tons of fossils including more than a thousand human remains which could have been studied with amazing results, shedding light on the history of the past ten million years. He is known for his hypotheses that highlight the interrelationships between human evolution and the evolution of the environment.
In 1969 Cobbins was called to the deputy director of the Museum of Man, who became its director in 1980 at the same time
To dedicate the Anthropology Chair to the National Museum of Natural History. Meanwhile, travel to the Omo River valley in Ethiopia, an important site for the discovery of ancient humans. At the request of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, the British paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey organized an international expedition in which Yves Coppins participated, discovering the remains of Australopithecus Aethiopicos (2.5 million years ago).
Then the French scientist headed to Afar in eastern Ethiopia: in 1974 Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) was discovered with Maurice Tayeb and Don Johansson (USA). Lucy’s 52 bones (a human skeleton has 206) made it possible to reconstruct her weight, age, and movement and to discover that pre-humans walked and climbed trees. Lucy’s name comes from the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” whose tunes rang out in the field.
Ethiopian expedition ship.
Over the years, Coppins has formulated hypotheses proposing an ecological explanation for the separation of Hominidae Panidae 8 million years ago (1983), another hypothesis that identified the first appearance of Australopithecines 4 million years ago (1999), and another hypothesis about the emergence of the genus Homo 3 million years ago (1975) . These three stages postulated by Coppins are connected vertically or transversely within real trees, and each creates the conditions for the next stage, while developing its own stock in an original and independent manner.
Drawing on the different speeds of development of biology and technology, Yves Coppins also explained how the acquired gradually prevailed over the innate, giving man freedom and responsibility, and why human evolution slowed and then stopped.
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