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First Peoples

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See how the mixing of prehistoric human genes led the way for our species to survive and thrive around the globe. Archaeology, genetics and anthropology cast new light on 200,000 years of history, detailing how early humans became dominant.

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Classroom Resources

How did Homo sapiens populate the Earth? This interactive map highlights recent dramatic advancements in our understanding of early human history. Grades: 6-12

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About the Show

200,000 years ago we took our first steps on the African savanna. Today there are 7 billion of us living across planet Earth. How did our ancestors beat the odds?

This is a global detective story, featuring new fossil finds and the latest genetic research. It’s a story that revolves around a shocking revelation. In prehistoric times, we met and mated with other types of human – like Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo erectus. This mixing of genes helped us survive - and ultimately thrive.

About the Episodes

Episode 1 | Americas: As early humans spread out across the world, their toughest challenge was colonizing the Americas because a huge ice sheet blocked the route. It has long been thought that the first Americans were Clovis people, who arrived 13,000 years ago. But an underwater discovery in Mexico suggests people arrived earlier — coming by boat, not on foot.

Episode 2 | Africa: 200,000 years ago Homo sapiens appeared on the African landscape. While scientists have long imagined eastern Africa as a real-life Garden of Eden, the latest research suggests humans evolved in many places across the continent at the same time. Now, DNA reveals that our ancestors continued meeting, mating and hybridizing with other human type — creating ever greater diversity within us.

Episode 3 | Asia: Discover the ancient humans living across Asia when Homo sapiens arrived. Our ancestors mated with them and their genes found a home within our DNA. More than that, they’ve helped us face down extinction.

Episode 4 | Australia: When humans arrived in Australia, they were, for the first time, truly alone, surrounded by wildly different flora and fauna. How did they survive and populate a continent? There is a close cultural and genetic link between early Australians and modern-day Aborigines; here the ancient and modern story intersect as nowhere else.

Episode 5 | Europe: When Homo sapiens turned up in prehistoric Europe, they ran into the Neanderthals. The two types of human were similar enough – intellectually and culturally - to interbreed. But as more Homo sapiens moved into Europe and the population increased, there was an explosion of art and symbolic thought which overwhelmed the Neanderthals.

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