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Series: Walking with Cavemen
Walking with Cavemen: First Ancestors
It's 3.5 million years ago and in East Africa a remarkable species of ape roams the land. Australopithecus afarensis has taken the first tentative steps towards humanity by standing and walking on two legs. The rift valley was forming, and the rain forests dying as Africa dried out - turning the landscape into a mosaic of scattered trees and grass. In this new environment afarensis found it more efficient to move about on two legs rather than four.
Walking with Cavemen: Blood Brothers
'Blood Brothers' follows the lives of two species, Paranthropus boisei and Homo habilis who embody two alternative ways of ape-man life. Although heavyset, with distinctive gorilla-like faces, the boisei are gentle characters. They live within a strict social structure and are led by a dominant male whose strength and power holds the group together. The habilis have taken a different approach to survival. They don't have the specialisms of the boisei but instead have developed into the archetypal jack-of-all-trades, inquisitive scavengers prepared to try almost anything to survive. Tough, active, gregarious and noisy, they are always on the move and always alert to the possibility of a meal. But in the near drought of the dry season the habilis are struggling. It seems as if their way of life cannot help them when conditions are tough.
Walking with Cavemen: Savage Family
One and a half million years ago, a new breed of ape-man walks the land. In southern Africa, Homo Ergaster has taken the next step to becoming human. They have long, modern looking noses, which cool air as they breathe. Their hairless bodies, with millions of tiny sweat glands, mean they don't pant anymore to control their temperature - they sweat. And, above all, they have big brains - nearly two-thirds the size of ours.
Walking with Cavemen: The Survivors
Nearly half a million years ago, the most advanced human yet roams Europe. Strong and powerful, Homo heidelbergensis are fierce hunters, use sophisticated tools and live in close-knit family groups. Over 200,000 years they become split into two populations by extremes of weather and environment and evolve separately into two very different species. In the North are the Neanderthals, whose physical power and resilience is the key to surviving in ice age Northern Europe. About 140,000 years ago, Africa is in the grip of a devastating drought, and something remarkable has happened to the descendants of heidelbergensis who live there. The combination of environment and chance has bred in them a unique ability that will change the course of human history. It will be this small band of southern survivors, perhaps numbering just a few tens of thousands, who will come to dominate the world and be known as Homo sapiens.
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