Smallscreen - Ape to Man

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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 would be known as Neanderthal Man and sparked a desire in the scientific community to know more about the origins of humanity. Around the same time, 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 had embarked on the search for the Missing Link, the single creature that represented the evolutionary leap from apes to humans. APE TO MAN examines the major discoveries that have led us to the understanding we have today, including theories that never gained proper 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.

Highlights of APE TO MAN include:

Reenactments of the work of Eugene DuBois, an Amsterdam physician who left his practice in 1890 in search of the Missing Link and found what would be called Homo erectus, a 500,000-year old ape-like skeleton, in Sumatra.  DuBois' assertion that he has found the Missing Link results in his rejection by the scientific community.  Only later did people realize the impact of the discovery.

Examination of the key elements that marked the evolution from ape to man, including the ability to walk upright, the use of tools, the harnessing of fire, the ability to form communities, and the ability to reason and plan.

The story of Piltdown Man, a skeleton discovered in England in 1912 which was, for a time, considered by many to be the definitive Missing Link, but later discovered to be one of the greatest hoaxes in the history of science.

Raymond Dart's 1924 discovery of Taung Child, a fossilized brain in Africa, nearly two million years old. It was the oldest finding to date, but was completely ignored by the scientific community because people still believed in the erroneous story of Piltdown Man.

The two key shifts in thinking that led to our understanding today: the shift to Africa as the birthplace of the human species and the shift from the thinking that brain size was the driving force of evolution, to the understanding that the use of tools was really the key step.

Ape To Man - Premieres Sunday, August 7 @ 9/8c

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Showing: 2005-08-07
Channel/Network: The History Channel

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