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First Peoples (PBS/DVD/2015)

Wow! The convoluted history on how our species, homo sapiens, came to be is always fascinating, with new evidence constantly surfacing.  PBS’ documentary, “First Peoples,” which aired last year, explores how approximately 200,000 years ago, in the north-central parts of Africa, humans began their evolution into the seven billion of us on earth today.

So, how did this strange hybrid of all previous humanoid creatures, including Neanderthals, Denisovans (from Siberia) and Homo Erectus, among others, . come to conquer everything else that was larger, stronger, faster, etc., than we were? What contributed to our larger brains?  So, what producers Tim Lambert and his Wall-to-Wall Media, Ltd., have accomplished is extraordinary, indeed.

How have every ethnic sub-strata of “human”: black, yellow, brown, white and shades in-between, evolved? What factors went into the drive to explore other parts of the world than what they’d been born into? How did this mixing of genes create the hybrid human that we are?  Did this mixture allow our species to thrive and conquer the others, even as we mated with The Other?

While not making absolutist statements about what are often pieced-together fragments of bone, pottery, religious symbols, and so on, the producers have in their five-hour documentary explored all parts of the world – the six continents in which human and human-like remains were found (none in Australia – at least until global warming thaws out what might be there to be found). 

This is exciting scientific findings – evidence that drives racists of all colors ballistic – that just as dogs evolved from wolves, so humans came from Africa and spread to the Middle-East, Asia, Pacific Islands, Europe and the Americas over scores of centuries, constantly moving to new lands, adapting to new environments until they became….us.

This is fine film-making, adding to our incomplete knowledge of just who we are and how we got to be this way.