ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Archaeologists studying human origins in eastern Ethiopia have discovered 12 fossils that appear to be older than the famous fossil "Lucy," the team leader said on Saturday. "The discovery of 12 early hominid fossil specimens estimated to be between 3.8 to 4 million years old will be important in terms of understanding the early phases of human evolution before Lucy," Ethiopian archeologist Yohannes Haile Selassie told a news conference. "It is hoped that the new discoveries will allow scientists to connect the dots, furthering our knowledge of the time period in human evolution," he added. Lucy is Ethiopia's world-acclaimed archaeological find. The discovery of the almost complete hominid skeleton, estimated to be at least 3.2 million years old, in 1974 was a landmark in the search for the origins of humanity. Yohannes said the new find was made approximately 37 miles north of the site where Lucy was discovered in the eastern region of Afar. The excavated specimens included parts of one individual's skeleton, complete with ribs, vertebrae and pelvis, he said. Animal remains were also uncovered. Twenty years after Lucy was unearthed, archaeologists dug up the remains of a chimpanzee-sized ape, estimated at 4.4 million years old, in the same Afar region.