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August 20 - August 24 at 8 pm ET on CBC News Network
There are 7 billion humans on earth, spread across the whole planet. New scientific evidence suggests that it all started with a tiny group of people who left Africa on an incredible journey. Crossing the world in five epic journeys, this series follows the archaeological and genetic footprints of our ancient ancestors in search of the lost story of how their journeys transformed our species into the humans we are today and how we came to dominate the planet.
How did we go from being a small and vulnerable group in Africa, to colonising every landmass on the planet? Science can now reveal an incredible amount about this murky but extraordinary period of our past. We use the latest scientific evidence to reveal the daunting and brutal challenges our ancestors had to face in their survival and the obstacles to their global migrations: impassable mountains and deserts; vast oceans, freezing wildernesses, terrifying giant beasts and the biggest super-volcano in human experience. And perhaps the most serious threat of all: 'other' humans. Why was it our species of human that was eventually the only one left?
We explore not only these challenges and how they were overcome, but also how our ancestors changed in response to them. Colour, facial features and diet have all been shaped by the range of environments that our ancestors had to survive. But despite these differences, we also discover how astonishingly closely related we all are.
Episode 1: OUT OF AFRICA
We go in search of the first humans and and try to piece together a picture of how they managed to survive in the dangerous environment of pre-historic Africa around 200,000 years ago. We discover how our species developed technologically and how eventually, a tiny group of them – perhaps a single tribe – left Africa, around 70,000 years ago. The programme also gathers expert opinions on the evidence left by bones, stones and genes to try to work out which route these early people took out of Africa, allowing them to spread and eventually colonise the whole globe, to become the ancestors of all humans outside Africa today.
Episode 2: AUSTRALIA
It's a huge puzzle, how our ancient ancestors made it as far as Australia from Africa, a journey that involved at least one sea crossing. But it's even more puzzling that they arrived there long before our species reached the much closer continent of Europe.Why, having survived a supervolcano and fought off other hostile humans (as the evidence suggests), did they risk it all by making a perilous ocean crossing? Apart from some very ancient human remains in Australia that confirm the arrival of our species, there is very little to go on. In this episode, we discover new evidence for this incredible journey.
Episode 3: ASIA
We continue the journey into Asia, the world's greatest land mass. How did early hunter-gatherers manage to survive in some of the most inhospitable places on Earth and why did they take this route? One clue may be found in the lifestyle of the Evenki people of Northern Siberia, whose lives are dictated by reindeer (both wild and domestic), and whose survival techniques appear to have been passed down through many generations. The programme also explores what happened to modern humans on their great journey to bring about the change in their appearance from traditional African features to the facial characteristics associated with east Asia.
Episode 4: EUROPE
We examine how early modern humans travelled from Africa into the heart of Europe and what may have happened on this journey to change their skin colour from brown to white. How did these early hunter-gatherers endure the unimaginable conditions of the last Ice Age and how did they come to dominate a land already inhabited by the tough, resiliant Neanderthal peoples? Cave paintings, sculptures, tools and music-instrument finds suggest that these early modern humans were much more imaginative, inventive and sophisticated than was previously believed, and perhaps it was these very qualities of ingenuity and resourcefulness that gave them the advantage of their Neanderthal cousins.
Episode 5: THE AMERICAS
We look at the evidence as to just how early modern humans came to conquer the Americas, and the perilous route they may have taken to reach this vast land mass, cut off as it is by mountains of ice to the North and oceans to the South. We investigate the various routes these intrepid travellers may have taken and find convincing genetic evidence to suggest that their route from North to South may have followed the Pacific coastline.