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NOVA: Becoming Human: Birth Of Humanity - Part Two

Airs Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: An actor portraying a member of the tiny population of Homo sapiens from whom we all sprang. Geneticists have traced our ancestry to a bare 600 individuals who lived on the shores of Pinnacle Point, South Africa, learning to read the moon to exploit a rich marine resource.

Where did we come from? What makes us human? An explosion of recent discoveries sheds light on these questions, and NOVA's comprehensive, three-part special, "Becoming Human," examines what the latest scientific research reveals about our hominid relatives.

Depicting Our Ancestors: 
In this audio slideshow, filmmaker Graham Townsley describes what it takes to bring ancient hominids to life.

Above: Depicting Our Ancestors: In this audio slideshow, filmmaker Graham Townsley describes what it takes to bring ancient hominids to life.

Part Two, “Birth of Humanity,” investigates the first skeleton that really looks like us–"Turkana Boy"–an astonishingly complete specimen of Homo erectus found by the famous Leakey team in Kenya. These early humans are thought to have developed key innovations that helped them thrive, including hunting large prey, the use of fire and extensive social bonds.

The program examines an intriguing theory that long-distance running was crucial for the survival of these early hominids. Not only did running help them escape from vicious predators roaming the grasslands, but it also gave them a unique hunting strategy: chasing down prey animals such as deer and antelope to the point of exhaustion. "Birth of Humanity" also probes how, why, and when humans' uniquely long period of childhood and parenting began.

Part three: "Last Human Standing," which examines why, of various human species that once shared the planet, only our kind remains, will air at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, August 31.

Video

Video Excerpt: NOVA: Becoming Human, Part 2

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Above: In "Birth of Humanity," the second part of the three-part series "Becoming Human," NOVA investigates the first skeleton that really looks like us - "Turkana Boy," an astonishingly complete specimen of Homo erectus found by the famous Leakey team in Kenya. These early humans are thought to have developed key innovations that helped them thrive, including hunting large prey, the use of fire, and extensive social bonds.

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