Discover how scientists are unlocking the mystery of our remarkable resilience: the “evolution of adaptability” in homo sapiens. Thompson confronts new climate research that shows our ancestors emerged in Africa just as global conditions went haywire, with volatility unprecedented since the extinction of the dinosaurs. Learn how our species faced near extinction, and then found a place to rebuild on Africa’s coasts. Explore the birth of language and art at archeological excavations scientists are now calling “the cradle of the human mind”. And marvel at the evidence our earliest modern ancestors were expert breath-hold divers, harvesting beneath the waves on South Africa’s Cape Coast.
Thompson visits a series of globally recognized experts on human origins and the Africa world of our ancestors, including Director of the Smithsonian’s human origins program Rick Potts, renowned archeologist Curtis Marean, whose South African excavations are telling us how humans escaped the threat of extinction, and Chris Henshilwood, whose discovery of the earliest symbolic thought and art-making is revolutionizing our understanding of the beginnings of the “modern human”. (see an interactive timeline)
This episode’s climax is an unforgettable journey into the unknown, and very dangerous, world of the last remaining free-diving nomads: the Badjoa of the southern Philippines. Living in a war zone, they show Thompson how humans can become hunter-gatherers of the ocean floor. The Great Human Odyssey is the first documentary in history to offer a glimpse of this remarkable culture in its homeland.