Sunday March 15 at 7.30pm on SBS
We all know the word “Neanderthal” as an unflattering qualifier for some of our more uncultured and dim-witted fellow humans. But was the real Neanderthal man truly such an intellectual dunce? The Real Neanderthal Man looks at modern scientific findings that reveal quite the opposite.
In 1856, fossil remains of a type of early man were found in a pleasant little valley near Düsseldorf, the Neander Thal. The bones were studied, and various theories proposed, but the site was not further explored until one of today’s leading paleoanthropologists, Ralf W. Schmitz, insisted that there was more to be found.
It appeared that Schmitz was correct and in several recent explorations, the discovery of fragments of bone, stone tools, blades and other items gave scientists a better picture of the life of the early man. The expedition also provided evidence of other Neanderthalers, including a woman who’s DNA proved she came from present-day Croatia.
The Real Neanderthal Man looks at the new findings and the original fossils, and uses state of the art technology analysis methods to gain a better understanding of the early man.
Cellular nucleus DNA is extracted to find out whether we are actually related to the Neanderthal Man. By using stereo lithographic models and rapid prototyping, the skull is reconstructed for the first time in history, it is physically duplicated with all its features, and an artist’s rendering brings us face to face with him.
Evidence from bone chemistry is used to identify the composition of Neanderthal diets, and one fingerprint found on pieces of birch pitch from another excavation site are compared by criminologists to the fingerprints of modern humans and primates. Finally, a group of Italian scientists dives to the bottom of an ice-age lake to collect samples of sediment that show us what the world of the Neanderthal Man looked like over 40,000 years ago.
The Real Neanderthal Man recreates a prehistoric world using striking dramatisations and takes us back to the ice ages. The documentary looks at how the early man hunted with companions, engineered tools and became skilled craftsmen.