Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Incredible Human Journey

I woke this morning feeling burned out from the script writing over the last couple of days, so I treated myself to an hour watching the final episode of The Incredible Human Journey on BBC iPlayer.

If you haven't been following this series, I would strongly encourage you to look at it. I'm sure it will be repeated on the BBC. It is also available at the moment on iPlayer. I am not sure if it will be accessible outside the UK, but it is the kind of BBC product likely to be sold around the world.

The series explores the genetic heritage of modern humans from our origin 200,000 years ago in East Africa. It follows the great journeys of exploration that led to our populating the world. The presenter, Alice Roberts, is a medical doctor and anthropologist. She is also enthusiastic, sincere and immediately likable.

The story she tells of our ancestors, pieced together from fragments of evidence, is astonishing. It emphasises once again the common humanity of all people. I can't put it better than by quoting Alice Roberts's final statement in the last program.

Referring to the slaughter of native Americans by European settlers she describes it as:

"...a tragedy which seems so much more senseless in light of what we now know about our human story: our origins in Africa, the journeys our ancestors made and the close genetic bond we all share.

The differences between us all are really just superficial. We're all members of a young species that goes back less than 200,000 years and we're all surprisingly closely related.

This is the story that has emerged from the study of stones, bones and our genes: that wherever we've ended up, all over the world, we are Africans under the skin. And uncovering that story, retracing the steps of our ancestors has given me a profound sense of our common humanity, our shared past and our shared future."

If you follow this blog, you'll probably be aware of my view that, in the words of Baha'u'llah, we are all "leaves of one tree" and "fruits of one branch". You will also be aware that my emotions are never far buried. So you won't be surprised that I wept profusely on at the end of the program!

It is a truly beautiful series.


siobsi said...

I echo all of this. And what a perfect antidote to all that BNP nonsense about racial purity. The series explored why skin colour and facial structure changed as our African family moved into new environments. And in one episode, peering at cave paintings, Roberts explained how ART and culture was key to the survival and flourishing of homeo sapiens as a species. Storytelling is hardwired into us as a group and we survived BECAUSE we bonded together in communities. Wonderful stuff.

Mosher said...

siobsi beat me to it - I was going to say how much I bet the BNP hate this series. Which makes it all the better a programme :)

iPlayer means that the series won't be available outside of the UK via that route but it is freely available via bitTorrent.