PBS has spent ample time in the last number of years or so examining the roots of today’s human civilization. Programs such as NOVA: Becoming Human (2010), NOVA: Decoding Neanderthals (2013), and First Peoples (2015) have collectively presented an in-depth history of human evolution and civilization throughout the species’ history. Late last year, PBS made yet another addition to that already extensive stable of programs with the release of NOVA: Dawn Of Humanity in November 2015. The recently released two-hour program complements those programs quite well and is another piece that students and lovers of history and archaeology will equally appreciate. The central reason that both audience groups will appreciate it is its subject matter. It is another piece on the history of humans. But it is far more specific in terms of its subject matter. That will be discussed shortly. The program’s presentation in terms of its makeup is another reason that it is worth the watch. Last but not least of note in this latest evolutionary science selection from PBS is the material that makes up the body of the program. Each element proves important in its own right to the program’s overall presentation. Altogether they make NOVA: Dawn of Humanity yet another impressive new offering from NOVA and PBS. Together they show why NOVA remains the best science-based program on television today and why PBS remains the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming.
NOVA: Dawn of Humanity is another interesting addition to PBS’ current series of programs centered on the evolutionary sciences. It is more proof of why NOVA remains today the leading science-based series on television and why PBS remains today the last bastion of truly worthwhile programming on television. It proves this centrally through its subject matter. It is, as noted, not the first of PBS’ programs that has ever been centered on human evolution. However, unlike those programs, this program is less broad in terms of its subject matter. It is focused centrally on the discovery of remains in a cave in South Africa. The remains in question are some of the most eye-opening that scientists have located to this day. That is because, as is posited through interviewers and general discussion, they form skeletons that prove to be even closer to humans than any previously discovered remains elsewhere on Earth. The program examines the significance of this revelation in relation to the link between humans and hominids in full depth. It also examines how the remains got to their final resting place and how that plays into the remains’ link to humans. That in itself is quite interesting to learn. This is just a portion of the program’s centralized discussion that makes it so interesting for students and lovers of history and archaeology. There is more tied into that discussion for audiences to discover themselves. It is also just one part of the program in whole that makes it worth the watch. The manner in which the two-hour program is presented is just as important as the subject at its center.
The subject matter that sits at the center of NOVA: Dawn of Humanity is in itself a largely important part of the program’s overall presentation. That is because it is far less broad than topics presented in previous PBS presentations centered on evolutionary sciences. Instead of focusing on the overall topic of human evolution, this program focuses on the discovery of remains that could potentially be the closest link to humans of any ever found. While this is important to note of the program’s overall presentation, the manner in which the topic is presented is just as important to note as its subject matter. NOVA: Dawn of Humanity comes in at a total run time (TRT) of roughly two hours. That is double the time of the typical episode of NOVA. Over the course of that time, audiences get two seamless segments. The first segment focuses mainly on the discovery of the skeletal remains in the Rising Star cave, the history of the cave, and the overall importance of the find. They even learn that the cave was first discovered during the South African Gold Rush of the late 1880s yet apparently untouched by the men that discovered it. That in itself is fodder for a whole other episode of NOVA. It begs the question what did they find that led them to just walk away from it. The second segment focuses mainly on the efforts to extract the remains. Audiences will laugh at the rather specific requirements that were listed for those that applied to take part in the excavation. Applicants had to have certain measurements (specifically be rather petite) because of the tight spaces that had to be navigated in order to reach the cave. What’s more the very fact that the job was posted via Facebook and received such huge response is just as interesting. Of course it was just as interesting and surprising to the man that posted the job. That is just part of what makes this segment so interesting. There is also the excitement of those involved in the excavation in being part of it. This includes the project’s head. There is, again, much more for audiences to enjoy. Through it all the two segments are connected seamlessly from beginning to end. There is no one segment separate from the other. It is all one presentation. Yet the separation point is still clear. And being so clear, it’s almost like it isn’t even there. That subtlety ensures that audiences will remain engaged from beginning to end. It’s one more way in which NOVA: Dawn of Humanity proves to be another interesting episode of NOVA.
The subject matter presented in NOVA: Dawn of Humanity and the overall presentation of the subject matter are both key elements to the program’s presentation. As important as they are to the program they are not all that audiences will appreciate. The material that makes up the program’s overall presentation is just as important as its subject matter and its subtly segmented presentation. The material that makes up the body of the program includes the standard interviews with those closest to the subject, of course. They discuss the importance of the find both in regards to its historical importance and to its importance in today’s current scientific community. There are also graphic depictions of the “evolutionary tree” depicting the link between the different branches of mankinds’ evolutionary links. It helps to better illustrate the connections and why they are so important. There are also some reenactments incorporated into the program’s presentation, too. They help to better illustrate the historical importance of the find. Together with the interviews and the graphic elements, all three work together to make the material within NOVA: Dawn of Humanity its own important element in the program. That important element is set against the program’s general presentation and its subject matter to make it in whole a program that lovers and students of history and archaeology will equally enjoy.
NOVA: Dawn of Humanity is not PBS’ first time delving into the world of evolutionary science. However it is still an interesting program regardless. That is thanks in large part to its subject matter. Unlike previous programs centered on the subject, it is more centrally focused on one topic. The program’s general presentation is just as important in its overall viewing experience. The material used to make up the body of the program rounds out its most notable elements. Each element is important to the whole of the program in its own way. Altogether they make NOVA: Dawn of Humanity a program that every lover and student of history and archaeology will appreciate just as much as PBS’ previous evolutionary science programs. It is available now and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=61808036&cp=&sr=1&kw=nova+dawn+of+humanity&origkw=nova+dawn+of+humanity&parentPage=search. More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at: