REVIEWS: Docs / Other films — November 18, 2012 at 12:10 am

REVIEW: Sex in the Stone Age (2012)

Before anyone jumps into conclusions – the title for this quite fascinating National Geographic documentary is misleading and exactly right at the same time.

In 2010, somewhere in Southern Siberia’s Altay Mountains, an ancient body part has been discovered by Russian archaeologists. A finger bone, to be exact.

Svante Paabo, a world-famous Swedish biologist specializing in evolutionary genetics from from the Max Planck Institute joins the archaeologists on this discovery.

Paabo is known as one of the founders of paleogenetics, a discipline that uses the methods of genetics to study early humans and other ancient populations.

He takes the finger bone to his lab, and instructs his team to examine the finger bone.

As it turned out later, the analyzed DNA from that finger bone showed that it belonged to a completely new, undiscovered type of humans. They were later called the “Denisovans”, according to the cave where the finger bone was found.

In 2010, Paabo and his team published a report on this discovery, suggesting that the bone belonged to an extinct member of the genus Homo that had not yet been recognized, the Denisovan in other words.

The documentary later reveals that the Denisovans actually interbred with both Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals, which resulted in their children being born as “hybrids”. All this leads to us today – as the scientists suggest – a mix of different DNA’s in a modern human body.

The film shows Paabo and some other scientists trying to figure out how the Denisovans looked like, and how were they different from the modern humans and Neanderthals.

The research revealed that the Denisovans lived in Siberia around 50,000 years ago, they had dark skin, brown hair and brown eyes.

Some other resources say the scientists found that the Denisovans were most genetically similar to Australian aborigines and island populations from Southeast Asia.

Paabo later joins a group of scientists and researches on a trip to China, to study the bones and parts of skulls found on the territory, to find out whether any of those bone fragments belonged to Denisovans.

Basically, the “Sex in the Stone Age” documentary is not really about how our ancestors spent their free time, and how many positions they used, it is more about a breakthrough in discovering a new human species, that has interbred with the species already known to science.

For those interested in ancient history of humans, this National Geographic documentary would be a nice push towards wanting to learn more about this discovery.

However, the documentary is interesting enough for just about any average viewer, as it includes both captivating narration, interesting footage, and doesn’t drag a bit. In fact, it could have been some 15-20 minutes longer.

Considering all of the above, “Sex in the Stone Age” is more about “over 40 thousand years ago…who was sleeping with whom?” rather than “so, how they really did it?”.

Whether you consider yourself a hybrid or not, this documentary is definitely worth all of the 50 minutes of its length.



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