The roots of the human race are shrouded in mystery, lost to the depths of prehistoric time. Although every school kid knows that we evolved from the apes the reality is that almost nothing is known about our earliest ancestors beginnings. In October 2000, in a remote corner of Kenya, Africa, a team of French and Kenyan scientists, led by Martin Pickford and Brigitte Senut made an extraordinary find, it was potentially the remains of the oldest human ancestor ever discovered dating back 6 million years. This makes these skeletal remains twice as old as the most famous skeleton in the world “Lucy”, which is 3.2 million years old.
The find became known as “Millennium Man”, the scientists involved claimed that they had discovered the oldest direct ancestor of humankind. We know very little about this time period in our history so no matter what the find is, human relative or not, it is very exciting. These remains, however, may belong to the animal that set us on the evolutionary path to humanity. Archaeological finds such as this are the only way we are going to piece together our ancestry and understand where we came from. As Professor Senut who worked on the project points out, “Science doesn’t proceed or get better with established ideas. You have to challenge” and Millennium Man seems to be challenging an awful lot of accepted science.
Do these remains belong to the ape that learned to walk? In this film, we follow Pickford and Senut in Kenya and Paris as they reveal their evidence to support the claims. Using computer graphics and through various interviews with the experts themselves, we learn of the theories and science behind this amazing discovery.
If these remains prove to be a direct human ancestor, then according to some scientists, other remains such as Australopithecus afarensis “Lucy” may be considered a side branch of the hominid family tree: The Millennium Man is both earlier, by almost 3 million years, and more similar to modern humans than Australopithecus.
Directed by: Ben Bowie , Ann Carroll