In February of 2001, a group of British, French and Kenyan scientists announced a breakthrough discovery. An earlier excavation in Kenya had unearthed a series of bones believed to belong to our earliest human ancestors. The enormous implications of this discovery are explored in the exciting documentary The First Human.
Scientists went about the painstaking task of analyzing this impressive scattering of bones and teeth. Through careful study of the fossil properties, and of the region in which they were found, they reached a startling conclusion. These were the oldest human bones ever recorded in archeological history, and they could revise our long accepted views on the development of our species.
Understandably, the discovery was met with great skepticism. Perhaps the most famous of all previous discoveries was the skeleton named Lucy. This three million year old ape stood upright on two legs, and served as the basis of our time line for human evolution. The Kenyan bones - which were later given the title of "Millennium Man" - were determined to be twice the age of Lucy.
So began the long quest to further establish the veracity of these findings, and to challenge the understanding of our origins. How did apes manage to change their shape so dramatically, and what circumstances led them to travel upright and assume human form? The film engages wholeheartedly in the minutia of these discoveries. We learn how sediment and magnetic fields can reasonably indicate vast passages of time, how the chemical signatures of teeth betray the foods these early humans consumed, and how the hint of a groove in a femur bone fragment can confirm upright movement. We witness the means by which these bone fragments dictate a species' bodily structure. Drawing upon these observations, engineers construct mechanical recreations of these structures so they can better predict the functionality of early humans.
The First Human shows great respect for the scientific process. It's an arduous effort that calls upon the expertise of great minds from all over the world. The discovery of the "Millennium Man" spotlights the enormous responsibility these scientists face in reaching concrete conclusions, and is a testament to their bravery in challenging the status quo.