“A Species Odyssey” is a French documentary film directed by Jacques Malaterre, first broadcast on January 7, 2003 on France 3. It portrays the origins of Mankind from the moment the first primate stood up on their hind legs and set off to conquer the African Savanna, to modern Man, setting off to conquer space. 7 million years of triumph fraught with difficulties and extraordinary events that make Man what he is today.
Richard Leakey’s amazing discovery in Kenya completely changed what was previously known about human origins – there wasn’t a single line leading to humans, but many branches and many different species. So, where did we come from? Five million years ago changes in habitat created differences among primates that eventually led to homo Ergaster two million years ago, and then Homo Ergaster evolved even greater changes to become Homo Sapiens. Aired on Discovery Channel in 1999.
APE TO MAN examines the major discoveries that have led us to the understanding of our evolution we have today, including theories that never gained full acceptance in their time, an elaborate hoax that confused the scientific community for years, and the ultimate understanding of the key elements that separate man from apes.
It has long been considered the most compelling question in our history: Where do human beings come from? Although life has existed for millions of years, only in the past century-and-a-half have we begun to use science to explore the ancestral roots of our own species.
The search for the ultimate answer has taken a number of twists and turns, with careers made and broken along the way. Ape to Man is the story of the quest to find the origins of the human race – a quest that spanned more than 150 years of obsessive searching. The search for the origins of humanity is a story of bones and the tales they tell.
It was in 1856 that the first bones of an extinct human ancestor were encountered, unearthed by a crew of unskilled laborers digging for limestone in Western Europe. The find, which would be known as Neanderthal Man, was seeing the light of day for the first time in more than 40,000 years.
At the time, the concept of a previous human species was virtually unthinkable. Yet just a few years later, Charles Darwin’s work The Origin of Species first broached the subject of evolution, and by the end of the nineteenth century, it had become the hottest topic of the age. Adventurers embarked on the search for the Missing Link, the single creature that represented the evolutionary leap from apes to humans.
Neanderthal Museum, Erkrath
Neandertal is a small valley somewhat north of Duesseldorf. In 1856, it became famous for the discovery of prehistoric human remains that were considered the first specimen of Homo Neanderthalensis: the Neanderthal Man. (The “h” was dropped from the official spelling of “Tal” in 1901, but it was kept it the Latin scientific name and accordingly, in the name of the museum in Erkrath).