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Neanderthal

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This two-part series investigates what our ancient ancestors looked like and what would have happened when we met them. It turns out that what we thought we knew about them is wrong. They weren’t hunched, grunting, knuckle-dragging ape-men at all. In a reconstructed, imaginary confrontation, we discover they were faster, smarter, better looking and much more like us than we ever thought.

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About the Show

Eight years ago, there was an incredible breakthrough: the Neanderthal genome was first decoded. The greatest surprise was that most modern humans have inherited Neanderthal DNA, and that there is approximately two percent of their DNA inside everyone from outside sub-Saharan Africa. These genes have helped shape modern humans into what we are today, and they continue to affect us. So, what kind of people were our ancient ancestors?

This two-part series investigates what Neanderthals looked like and what would have happened when we met them. What we thought we knew about them is wrong. They weren’t hunched, grunting, knuckle-dragging ape-men at all. In a reconstructed, imaginary confrontation, we discover that they were faster, smarter, better-looking, and much more like us than we ever thought.

Our guide is Ella Al-Shamahi, a young rising star in Neanderthal research with an unusual sideline as a stand-up comic. She enlists the skills of Andy Serkis, the global movie star best known as Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" and Caesar in "Planet of the Apes," who uses his Hollywood magic to - for the first time ever - create a scientifically-accurate, 3-D, working avatar of a real Neanderthal.

In Andy Serkis’ studio, Ella brings together a core group of experts from all over the world – our Key Investigating Scientists - who are at the cutting edge of Neanderthal research. They help Andy translate the very latest Neanderthal science into digital design. Ella also gathers evidence by pursuing leads across the globe, meeting leading experts in their labs and at significant sites of Neanderthal discovery, from Iraqi Kurdistan to Gibraltar. Across the two shows, the scientists reveal ground-breaking discoveries about Neanderthal appearance, anatomy, movement, brain function, child development, diet, health, and culture.

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