The third and final installment of Becoming Human, the NOVA series about our hominid relatives, airs tonight on PBS. I’m really enjoying the series. If you missed the past episodes, they are currently online at PBS’ Video site.
NOVA examines the fate of the Neanderthals, our European cousins who died out as modern humans spread from Africa into Europe during the Ice Age. Did modern humans interbreed with Neanderthals or exterminate them? The program explores crucial evidence from the recent decoding of the Neanderthal genome.
How did modern humans take over the world? New evidence suggests that they left Africa and colonized the rest of the globe far earlier, and for different reasons, than previously thought. As for Homo sapiens, we have planet Earth to ourselves today, but that’s a very recent and unusual situation. For millions of years, many kinds of hominids coexisted. At one time Homo sapiens shared the planet with Neanderthals, Homo erectus, and the mysterious “Hobbits”—three-foot-high humans who thrived on the Indonesian island of Flores until as recently as 12,000 years ago.
“Last Human Standing” examines why “we” survived while those other ancestral cousins died out. And it explores the provocative question: In what ways are we still evolving today?