Becoming Human

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Ratings: 7.71/10 from 21 users.

Storyline

Becoming HumanNothing is more fascinating to us than, well, us. Where did we come from? What makes us human? NOVA's groundbreaking investigation explores how new discoveries are transforming views of our earliest ancestors.

Featuring interviews with world-renowned scientists, footage shot in the trenches as fossils were unearthed, and stunning computer-generated animation, Becoming Human brings early hominids to life, examining how they lived and how we became the creative and adaptable modern humans of today.

In the first episode, NOVA encounters Selam, the amazingly complete remains of a 3 million year-old child, packed with clues to why we split from the apes, came down from the trees, and started walking upright.

In gripping forensic detail, the second episode investigates the riddle of Turkana Boy -a tantalizing fossil of Homo erectus, the first ancestor to leave Africa and colonize the globe. What led to this first great African exodus?

In the final episode, Becoming Human explores the origins of us -where modern humans and our capacities for art, invention, and survival came from, and what happened when we encountered the mysterious Neanderthals.

Crucial new evidence comes from the recent decoding of the Neanderthal genome. Did modern humans interbreed with Neanderthals? Exterminate them?

Becoming Human examines why we survived while our other ancestral cousins-including Indonesia's bizarre 3 foot-high Hobbit -died out. And NOVA poses the intriguing question: Are we still evolving today?

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47 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Leah

    I love how scientists are finding more and more truth about humans...

  2. StatingtheObvious

    I think we underestimate the brains of our primal cousins.

  3. Tomdick andharry

    The first line is a tiny bit r@#$%&*$. "Humans, without a doubt the smartest things on earth". Really? Doesn't that seem a tad bit bias. Isn't that like saying were like this so you should be to? I mean really. Do you think Whales that migrate through thousands of miles of ocean are just mindless blobs of fat? Or turtles that return to the same beach they were born on to mate are dumb in comparison. Because we use MP3 players and invented bologne? Were total i@#$%& for sure. Don't forget it.

  4. larsomat

    The link on the photo in the teaser leads to the wrong page...

  5. Hemant Trivedi

    I got totally wrong documentry about chernobyl when I clicked the above link.
    How is it possible?

  6. Anthony

    I would certainly have felt rather more reassured of this docs veracity if it presented facts rather than speculation. As for the supposed new theory that humans success depended upon our adaptability to change well what on earth is knew about that?

    "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change".
    - Charles Darwin

    vlakto we drastically need a rating and review system for the docs, so one can wade through the regurgitation of spurious material to new inventive material without so much time wasting! I am glad though that the sponsor segment remained on this nova doc, I now realise why I instantly dislike most of the docs produced by this company.

    WAY TO REINVENT THE WHEEL!

  7. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    I enjoy a lot of NOVA stuff, so this may be good.

    I agree with ya Anthony, it would be great to have a rating system of some kind. I'm sure it would take a complete revamp of the site though...

  8. Simpeter

    i don't think it's possible to waste time at this site. it's simply too damn good.

  9. ez2b12

    @Tomdick andharry

    You are confusing instinct with intelligence. Yes whales and turtles achieve some mind blowing navigation and have very finely tuned intuition. But they are not conciouse of what they are doing. Have you ever seen a whale or turtle express in artistic or abstract thought, plan for the future in a conciouse manner (I mean the distant future)? Have they ever created symbols or language or arithematic? Man is most definetly the most intelligent creature on this planet. This doesn't mean that he is perfect, just the only creature to posess the higher mental functions necessary to achieve the things we have achieved. Would you get on a airplane built by a turtle? Would you trust a whale to educate your children? Of course not, I rest my case.

  10. Dr. Dunkleosteus

    @simpeter, I agree! I don't even have cable. Just a netflix account and top docs :)

  11. capricious

    Really hate how I can't watch youtube playlists full screen without them automatically snapping to HD. My DSL can't download it fast enough nor can my laptop play that of high resolution. Totally sucks :(

    They've been hearing about it for months on their forums too but just don't ever seem to care enough to listen. Sounds like a great doc too.

  12. ez2b12

    @ capricious

    I feel you man, I have been complaining about the same thing for some time now. I have tried every different setting and fix I can think of, with no luck. I just sit by the computer and constantly click it back to a lower res, this is the only way i have found to watch these docs. Personally I like the google player best, no issues or resolution problems- just click play and chill out and watch. The Mega player is good as well, if you follow the faq Vlatko provides it runs smooth with no time limit.

  13. zol

    @Anthony et al.
    We have to recognise that "documentary" is nothing but a format, and we can't be too indignant that watching TV is no substitute for individual research and reflection.

    I don't think a ratings system would add anything to the existing provision for user comments is already more informative, particularly since we can decide which comments we respect from their content.
    I imagine that ratings would be flooded by band-wagon freeloaders.

    Recognising the strengths and deficiencies of certain production companies goes a long way toward telling us what to expect, and people no doubt have different tolerances.

    I think the most useful addition - as if Vlatko is not busy enough - would be some kind of classification system to distinguish between different kinds of documentary: mystico-paranoid word-soup slideshow? stock-footage segue-fest? academic lecture? hype-question detourama? actually pursuing relevant insights? and-what-about-th!s splatter?
    Well, maybe not those exactly ;P

    Point is, style is a big part of substance (as medium is to message) where documentaries are concerned.

  14. Randy

    I've seen this, of course.

    NOVA, is "must-see-TV" in my house.

    Iy has much to teach... thank you, Vlatko...

  15. Randy

    *that should have been, "IT has much to teach..."

    Sorry...

  16. hotice

    anthony you didnt seem to quite understand the point on what he said, old theory was that when the climate changed to grassy lands it shaped our living style we stood up in the high grass and so on they said that was the driving force on our evolution. and the new theory says that the driving force wasnt the savannas or the habitat it self but the variability in nature! the ancestors adapted to the change it self and not that we would evolve or change as soon as we get to new habitat.

    our ancestors were evolved to the change itself not the enviroment or habitat

  17. hotice

    capricious ez2b12 there is settings button on top of the resolution buttons, there is a option that makes it use full screen hd everytime available you might need to login youtube

  18. BoB

    Like Tom tiped, Fuuing anoying
    and you hear it in TOO many docs

  19. Vlatko

    @larsomat and @Hemant Trivedi, you're right. I've fixed that. My bad.

  20. alleycat43

    'tis like a three part celebration of the spread of cancer

  21. Eric T

    Awesome. Nova is as informative, scientific and interesting as ever.

  22. average joe

    human behavior makes me question the definition of intelligence.

  23. LMFAO

    average joe, I don't believe one should draw all humans over the same line and I think it's wrong to make the assumption that intelligence is the only factor that affects behavior. Humans trust humans since we live in a enormous pack (the society), the human mind is easily manipulated partly because of this. If we continue to live in this insane way evolution might do it's job.

    I really question the theory regarding climate change starting human evolution. Partly since the "African sand evidence" spontaneously does not seem to credible for me. Secondly, sure climate change might have started at the same time as human evolution but that doesn't mean climate change was the trigger in any way.

  24. ez2b12

    @ hotice

    Yeah, i have tried that- set it to never use HD as i have a slower connection- it still does it. Any other suggestions? I really would like to find out it was just me and I could fix it, but I don't think that is the case.

    When i read this it seems like i am being smart but i can't figure out how to rephrase it so- I will explain that i am not be sarcastic, I really would like other suggestiions if you have them.

  25. gyasar

    This is the best documentary i've ever watched. It's very informative, professional and it provide us the exact information about the subject.

  26. jack1952

    Alleycat43, Don't dislike yourself and others too much. Our successes have created a time of crisis but no one knows yet how things will turn out. A thousand years from now the earth may be in a new era that has never been so good. We may have to live and learn and evolve through the bad times to emerge in a newer state of existence. We have to work hard to survive and do so with optimism. Dislike of your fellow humans is only counter productive.
    Documentary was very informative and a cold and rainy day well spent.

  27. Arnold Vinette

    Excellent series that sums up everything science knows as of 2009 of how modern humans diversified from aps 5 to 6 million years ago and evolved into what we are todya.

    The only question I have is why did only we evolve and not modern chipanzees and gorillas? I mean we were all exposed to the same drastic changes in weather and changing conditions in Africa.

    So why did we evolve over the last 5 to 6 million years and they did no?

    The only other piece of missing research in this show that I saw was the new information related to cooking. As modern humans learned how to cook their food, this resulted in smaller jaw muscles that allowed the skulls to grow ever larger over a period of 20 years, rather than jsut three years for an ape. And that by cooking our food, humans received 20% more energy resulting in smaller stomachs.

    An interesting corellation was made between shrinking stomachs, increased brain size, and increased energy for the brain by cooking food for easier digestion. This increase in energy gave the modern brain the nutrients it needed to survive, because it accounts for 25% of all energy.

    Many of the above points were covered briefly, except for the DNA link between smaller jaw muscles and larger brains.

    A small point for an excellent documentary that covered a lot of material summing up everything science has learned to date about the evolution of humans.

    If only Darwin could have been transported into the future to see the results to date of what he started 150 years ago. (That would make a great documentary all on its own as Darwin is transported forward in time to see how scientists around the world have carried on his work using electronic devices he could never have dreamed of.)

    Special thanks to everyone involved in creating this documentary and Top Documentary Films for carrying it. Honestly, my life has changed dramatically with this web site as I now watch more educational TV that interests me than at any other point in my life! What a great use of the internet to educate, entertain and inspire.

    Arnold Vinette
    Ottawa, Canada

  28. Arnold Vinette

    Spelling corrected.

    Excellent series that sums up everything science knows as of 2009 of how modern humans diversified from apes 5 to 6 million years ago and evolved into what we are today.

    The only question I have is why did only we evolve and not modern chimpanzees and gorillas? I mean we were all exposed to the same drastic changes in weather and changing conditions in Africa.

    So why did we evolve over the last 5 to 6 million years and they did no?

    The only other piece of missing research in this show that I saw was the new information related to cooking. As modern humans learned how to cook their food, this resulted in smaller jaw muscles that allowed the skulls to grow ever larger over a period of 20 years, rather than just three years for an ape. And that by cooking our food, humans received 20% more energy resulting in smaller stomachs.

    An interesting correlation was made between shrinking stomachs, increased brain size, and increased energy for the brain by cooking food for easier digestion. This increase in energy gave the modern brain the nutrients it needed to survive, because it accounts for 25% of all energy.

    Many of the above points were covered briefly, except for the DNA link between smaller jaw muscles and larger brains.
    A small point for an excellent documentary that covered a lot of material summing up everything science has learned to date about the evolution of humans.

    If only Darwin could have been transported into the future to see the results to date of what he started 150 years ago. (That would make a great documentary all on its own as Darwin is transported forward in time to see how scientists around the world have carried on his work using electronic devices he could never have dreamed of.)

    Special thanks to everyone involved in creating this documentary and Top Documentary Films for carrying it. Honestly, my life has changed dramatically with this web site as I now watch more educational TV that interests me than at any other point in my life! What a great use of the internet to educate, entertain and inspire.

    Arnold Vinette
    Ottawa, Canada

  29. pulunco

    Arnold

    Chimpanzees and gorillas are still evolving, just like every other animal. You do know that we did not evolve from chimps and gorillas; we share common ancestors.

  30. Jack1952

    Some human behavior can be questionable. A neighbor who behaves in a civilized manner will go unnoticed for years. One wild man, after a couple of weeks, can be a nightmare. They are supposed to be the same species but their different behaviors would not be the indicator.

  31. Jack1952

    I like people. Well, most of them. Ok, half of them. Still.......

  32. Abro Azhar

    @ pulunco

    Same question of Arnold also stuck in my head.
    if chimpanzees and gorillas are still evolving then why they are taking so much time? and if they are evolving then why there are not present all living evolution stages among us (from chimp/gorilla to homo sapiens)?
    I mean i am not any anti-evolutionist, but these are simple logical questions to be answered scientifically and genetically.
    In the end they say: (After vanishing the Neanderthals) "For the first time there was only one type of human on the planet."
    So since 25,000 years when Neanderthals vanished, No any other Homo appeared on the Planet. and since 200,000 years, when Homosapeins appeared, nothing seemed to be evolved in this branch (except us).
    There is also another interesting question. All other Homos and Human-like apes vanished from the planet earth but chimpanzees and gorillas are still living, in their original shape. What's the reason?

  33. Joshua

    dont think chimps or gorillas evolve into homo sapiens. i was told one time its called the evolutionary tree not the evolutionary stick idk

  34. kelamuni

    Abro. Chimps don't need to "evolve" at the same rate as we did since they don't need to adapt. They are suited to their environment, the forest.

  35. kelamuni

    Good doc. However, the Ardi doc contradicts what is said here. Ardi lived in the forest, not savanna.

  36. Areeb Qureshi

    this documentary was nice and all..but i only have 1 question??
    ...if due to xterm climate change over 2 million years ago, our brains and skull's grow the fastest than ever before! than even nowadays we have human not only living in hot weather like in Africa but also in Canada and Russia where the weather is very cold, and if it is true that we change and adopt to our weather and climate than the people living in Russia should look different than the people in Africa or in USA!..why's that?..people is Russia maybe should have fur or something to protect them from the cold...but they are just like every other person on earth...?

    Areeb Q
    Washinton DC, USA / Pak

  37. maxramadan

    humans have just recently expanded to these places and evolution takes a long time to take place. it is a graduaal process although in very extremem situations will speed up. plus technology substitutes evolution. if u have a jacket, youa re warm and thus you dont need to grow hair to keep warm

  38. Victoria Stevens

    This is because we moved so rapidly to these other places and because of our intelligence, we learned to cover ourselves in other animal's furs so we do not need our own.. Evolution is driven by necessity and one trait being better then another. In our society, no one dies of cold because we have clothing to keep us warm. If we did not have clothes, then yes, we would eventually have fur or people living in Canada would look quite different then people in Africa. However, our skin colours are very different, which has its reasons based in weather and climate.

  39. Victoria Stevens

    Chimpanzees and Gorillas are not in the exact same branch of the evolutionary tree as we are. We come from the same, distant ancestor. Chimpanzee and Gorillas have been evolving over the same time period we have, they have just not had the need to evolve the same way we have. All the stages are not present because each stage evetually gives way to the next stage, which is better suited to surviving. Essentially, they go extinct.

    There were many human like beings on the planet between 1 million and 200,000 years ago. Many were just not able to keep up with climate change or other issues and they died out. Neanderthals are the closest human relatives. They evolved to be very similar to us. We are not sure why, but they went extinct. 25,000 years is the blink of an eye as far as evolution is concerned so there has not been enough time for another human like species to evlove.

  40. Greg Conn

    where can i watch the full discovering adri

  41. Ned Jibreen

    That's not the only reason. The documentary missed a key point in brain development too, which is diet.

    Also natural selection has come to a slow halt. We're now undergoing sexual selection instead. So favorable survival traits are no longer influenced.

  42. Laurentiu Rafaila

    you didn't notice that people from a hot climate like Africa are black and people from a cold climate are white?. I wonder why...

  43. Michael Jay Burns

    People from the colder regions do have fur. They don't grow it, they hunt it. Humans pretty much ceased adapting to the environment when their technology (fire, clothes, etc) allowed them to maintain human friendly mini-ecologies.

  44. Michael Jay Burns

    sexual selection follows the same rules as other sub-sets of natural selection, i.e. genetic traits that produce offspring at a higher rate than their competitiors survive.

  45. Dan Stephenson

    A question for the future is... Can our physical and mental capabilities evolve fast enough to cope with the constant evolution of civilisation? Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high suicide rates, depression, and countless other environmental impacts are now much more danger to human survival than the natural world is - indeed, most humans nowadays have little interaction with the natural world, and live entirely within artificial environments. Remove most people from any sign of civilisation and they would not survive.

    How quickly will we adapt to our rapidly changing human world? How have we done so already, and how will we do so in the future (bone claws, heat vision and telepathy aside)? Will the natural world one day tip the one we've created upside down, leaving our adaptation to civilisation at odds with our past adaptability with nature?

  46. deliaruhe

    I get uncomfortable with arguments that claim because humans survived climate change in the past by simply adapting (and sustaining a big die-off), we will survive the current climate crisis by adapting to the change. Nothing is said about the human die-off we will have to sustain. That argument is very convenient for those Westerners who've been warning about overpopulation without, of course, addressing their own overconsumption.

    Well, what else can you expect from Nova, bankrolled by David Koch but otherwise often excellent.

  47. bob

    Watch the changing ape. You might find it interesting.

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