Barack Obama came to Africa partially to connect with the continent of his forefathers.
On Monday, he met an ancestor of an altogether different kind: “Lucy,” the 3.2 million-year-old partial skeleton of a hominid discovered in Ethiopia.
“That’s amazing,” the U.S. president said of the bones, which were brought specially for him to view from a museum to the National Palace, where he was attending a state dinner.
Obama is on a two-country tour of Africa that started in Kenya, where his father was born. He arrived in Ethiopia on Sunday and returns to the United States on Tuesday.
Scientists told reporters the valuable partial skeleton was transported secretly and under tight security out of its museum. Obama was invited to touch one of the bones, something usually only permitted for scientists.
“We honor Ethiopia as the birthplace of humankind. In fact, I just met Lucy, our oldest ancestor,” Obama told attendees at the state dinner later in the evening.
“When you see our ancestor … we are reminded that Ethiopians, Americans, all the people of the world are part of the same human family, the same chain,” Obama said to applause.
A little bit of politics crept in to the moment, as well.
One of the scientists showing the bones to Obama referenced Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman who claimed for a long time that Obama was not born in the United States.
“It shows that every single person here, 7 billion people, including Donald Trump, came down through the chain,” said Zeresenay Alemseged, referring to Lucy’s place in the evolution of humankind.