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TV Show Review: Ape to Man


Viewing Level

Ages 13–18

On the Web
History Channel site
History of Anthropology
Piltdown Man
On This Site
Anthropology
The latest documentary from the History Channel focuses on the evolution of the human species. It premieres on Sunday, August 7, at 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Times.

The story is of the giants in the field of anthropology that contributed to people's understanding of the way the human species evolved. Included are the familiar stories of Eegune duBois, Raymond Dart, Louis Leakey (pictured with wife, Mary), and the discoverers of the famous "Lucy" skeleton. Also included is the famed Piltdown Man hoax, which nearly destroyed the career of Dart and others whose findings flew in the face of the "too-good-to-be-true" fossil discovered in Britain.

(It should be noted here that this program does not take sides in the debate on the theory of evolution. This is a scientific program that presents facts, dates, and data. The program does not argue in favor of any one theory or deny the existence of another. All opinions voiced are those of leading scientists in the anthropological field; the rest of the information is facts that can be verified.)

The production value of this show is extraordinary. As with other series produced by The History Channel, interviews accompany live-action re-enactments. In this case, however, the subjects being portrayed are the ancestors of humanity. The portraits of Neanderthal Man, Homo Erectus, and Homo Sapiens are very convincing. The viewer can appreciate the dangers and challenges that these primitive men and women faced and also the momentous occasions that furthered the progress of survival of the fittest (among them the taming of fire by Homo Erectus).

The show also does a good job of depicting the struggles that the famed anthropologists faced, in searching for "the missing link." Modern technology would have so helped these famous men and women; yet they had to struggle along with the tools and the technology that they had. Fascinating as well is the way that the program portrays the shifting focus of the "missing link" search. The "link" proved to be a moving target not only because anthropologists didn't always agree where to look but also because they hardly ever agreed on what to look for.

Bottom line: This show is an excellent introduction to the topic for teens and younger viewers and a good refresher course for adults who might have heard about Piltdown Man and "Lucy" but forgotten relevant details. Check it out!

The premiere is not the only showing of this impressive program, however. It will be shown later Sunday night, effectively 1 a.m. Monday; at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11; midnight Friday, Aug. 12; and at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13. Times are Eastern; check local listings to confirm.

Photos courtesy of The History Channel, credited as noted


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