Neanderthals: Meet Your Ancestors Series 1
According to recent science the Neanderthals are not the knuckle-dragging apemen of popular imagination. In fact they are our distant ancestors. About 2% of the DNA of most people is of Neanderthal origin – and it continues to affect us today.
This first programme in a two-part series investigates what Neanderthals looked like and how they lived in their Ice Age world. It turns out that almost everything we thought we knew about them is wrong. They weren’t hunched, grunting, knuckle-dragging ape-men at all. In reality they were faster, smarter, better looking – and much more like us than we ever thought. Our guide is Ella Al-Shamahi, a young, British, rising star in Neanderthal research, with an unusual side-line as a stand-up comic She enlists the skills of Andy Serkis, the global movie star and master of performance capture, best known as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Caesar in Planet of the Apes
In this episode, Ella Al-Shamahi explores the fate of the Neanderthals – asking why they became extinct, and discovering how they live on inside of us today. The programme starts in the caves of Gibraltar, which may have been the last place the Neanderthals survived. Discoveries here have shown the Neanderthals lived a good life – feasting on seafood and wild game. These were a people who were supremely well adapted to their environment. But about 40,000 years ago they disappeared. Why?
One of the reasons might have been that they lost out in a physical showdown with modern humans. Ella investigates one of the world’s oldest murder mysteries.