You, me, us, them, oh and Alice

Coming very soon to your cosy living rooms is new BBC 2 show Origins of Us, presented by the “darling doctor” of anatomy and all things human evolution, Alice Roberts. After the hit success of her science solo The Incredible Human Journey, the Coast star returns for another lone expedition to discover what key traits contributed to our species’ evolutionary success.

For a sneaky peak behind the biomechanics of running, have a watch of Alice in treadmill action: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00jjjw4#clips 

Planet of the Apemen: Battle for Earth #1

Blurb: An imaginitive reconstruction and factfile of the interactions between our own species Homo sapiens and another (now extinct) human species Homo erectus. Featuring excerpts courtesy of Chris Stringer, Professor of Palaeoanthropology and Head of Human Origins at the Natural History Museum, London.

The focus is firmly on what advantages we, H. sapiens, possessed that supposedly helped us out-compete H. erectus across Asia around 75 thousand years ago and onwards. H. erectus was a proficient runner and hunter that had inhabited large stretches of Asia for nearly 2 million years. It transpires that language, advanced tools, social networking plus the ability to anticipate enabled modern man to out-think H. erectus. The monotonous Thar desert and the collosal eruption of supervolcano Mount Toba added to the challenges our ancestors faced when migrating through Asia.

There are inaccuracies for example when the narrator states that H. erectus evolves into Homo floresiensis AKA “The Hobbit” in Indonesia – this is one of the most hotly debated topics in the field of human evolution today and a story for another day! What’s more, a recently published study in PLoS One suggests that the two species H. erectus and us, H. sapiens may never have co-existed in Asia after all! Read more here.

Contains a few mildly unnerving scenes involving stone head-bashings and spear stabbings. Also includes some comical make-up on the Homo erectus actors to beef up their brow ridges and “large faces”. Episode 1 sees a cameo role from Angela Wynter (Yolande off Eastenders).

Verdict: Informative and entertaining, 8/10

Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0124y9x/Planet_of_the_Apemen_Battle_for_Earth_Homo_Erectus/