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Oh Yeah Part II

Doc Brown: Unbelievable that Biff could have chosen that particular date. It could mean that this date might hold some special significance, being the temporal junction point for the entire space-time continuum! Other than that it could just be an amazing coincidence.

Oh Yeah Part II

But for the first time ever, we went into a Chuck season finale knowing we have a guaranteed next season. So really, how seriously could we take Chuck promising Ellie he'll get out of the spy business after Shaw got locked up? Oh yeah, then what's season four going to be? Watching Chuck do computer repair? Heck, we'd probably still watch it if it featured enough Sarah.

Either way, she had me fooled and I was really excited for the race to begin. And it did start out flat, just as the organizer had promised. Then we turned the corner and there before us was a hill. Gradual, steady, but a hill nonetheless. Oh yeah, and that hill continued for the duration of the race.

The venue was a sort of squat terraced house. The hosts had done the sensible thing of removing the furniture from all the rooms, which always makes the earlier stages and end of any party feel like a particularly bleak episode of Can't Pay? We'll Take it Away!

Outside we were introduced to two of Hugo's mates who had dressed up as bouncers in order to deal with any unwanted guests. It's pretty standard for big parties to hire private security guards in case things get out of control, but this house had decided to test a money-saving alternative by simply giving a couple of people plastic ear-pieces and sticking them in black jumpers. The mad thing was, it actually worked. As a crew of lads from a party further down the street tumbled back from whence they came, it became clear that the fake bouncers were doing a pretty real, and effective, job.

I should add: this party was taking place on Halloween weekend and the above was pretty much the closest anyone at this party got to a costume. I'm not sure what that hat is supposed be (shark? elephant? sex robot?) and no, I'm not sure why he's looking at you like that either.

Hugo and his gang of party-people had managed to do the impossible and unite the tribes. The sporty lads were there, the "talk a lot about drugs" guys were there, the friendly blokes in supermarket-bought T-shirts were there, the wavey-garmers were there, the quirky vintage girls, the nice guys in cord shirts who like Four Tet, the sparkly face-glitter gang and even the guy who does geography and dresses like your dad on a walking holiday was there. It was a vibe-buffet and everyone was welcome.

DON JOHANSON:Three million years ago in Africa a strange creature died. Herbody sank into the mud, her flesh slowly decomposed. And over time, her bonesturned to fossils. Three million years later, the process of erosion broughtthem to the surface. Time had transformed a swampy marshland into a desert.The desert located in Ethiopia became a key destination for fossil hunters.I'm Don Johanson, and along with my team from The Institute of Human Origins,we've been travelling to this region of Africa for over twenty years. It's adifficult place to get to, but worth the trip. We're looking for fossils thatwill tell us about our earliest origins, how our species began and how ourancestors lived. We made our first trip in the early '70s, setting up camp in aregion called Hadar on the banks of the Awash River. That first year, we gotto know the area, and in the second year, 1974, our persistence and patiencepaid off. It was a sensational find. We uncovered a skeleton of our earliestknown ancestor, nearly everything but the skull. Affectionately we named thecreature Lucy. She caused quite a stir in anthropological circles. Sheoffered convincing evidence of something quite unexpected. We could tell rightaway from the shape of her bones that this creature walked upright. Lucy wasthe starting point for the human lineage. She had a small brain, but shewalked like us. Here was the long sought after link between ape and human. Buthow did our tiny, small brained ancestor carve out an existence in such a wildand dangerous place? She lived among creatures much stronger and more powerfulthan she. Since we can't travel into the past and catch a glimpse of how ourancestors behaved, we must observe the world around us for clues that help usreconstruct their lives. In fact, parts of Africa today are not unlike theworld our ancestors lived in millions of years ago. The African night isfilled with hungry carnivores, so it's not the safest time to be out. Staydown, stay down. Those who can't defend themselves don't survive, so when yousee a pride of lions devouring an impala they've just killed, you realize howvulnerable our ancestors were out here. Nightfall must have been a terrifyingtime for our earliest ancestors. Without the safety of this car, I couldeasily become a meal for some hungry predator lurking out there in the dark.It was the same for our ancestors who had very little protection. Yet, somehowthey were able to carve out a space for themselves and survive among theseskilled African predators. Each and every animal that lives out here has itsown unique, special survival strategy. And I suspect it was no different forour ancestors, because they had to survive to eat and not be eaten. In theirdaily search for food, Lucy and her kind, known to scientists asAustralopithecines, probably covered a lot of ground. They walked upright sotheir hands were free to carry food. Roots, tubers, and even termites made uppart of their diet. They were adept at making a living, yet with a brain nolarger than an apes. They didn't have human intelligence, but how intelligentwere they? On our most recent expedition, we dug up some intriguing clues.Finally, after twenty years of searching, we found fragments of a skull fromLucy's species. It took a month to clean the fragments and figure out how toput them together, and once we did, we were not disappointed. This imagerepresents the oldest most complete skull of a human ancestor yet found. Theoriginal fossil, about three million years old, remains in Ethiopia. But wecan tell from certain features of the skull and the projecting face that itbelongs to the same species as Lucy. And from the large muscle attachments andlarge size of the skull, we can be certain that it was a male. We know thatLucy's species gave rise to the human lineage, yet this skull only possessed abrain a third the size of our own. So in order to understand the developmentof human intelligence, we have to study not only skulls like this, but also tryto reconstruct early human behavior. Constantly on the look-out for dangerousanimals, Lucy and her kind must have used whatever intelligence they possessedto find food and protect themselves. But some scientists thought they wentbeyond this, claiming our ancestors collected animal bones and used them asweapons. The picture they painted of these early creatures portrayed them askiller apes. The movie classic 2001 reinforced the idea of early man'skilling instincts. Other movies followed like Quest For Fire. Vicious,blood thirsty conflict was seen as the core of our humanity, and somescientists thought they had the evidence to prove it. The killer apehypothesis gained credibility with discoveries made in a South African cavecalled Makapansgat. During the 1950's, anatomy professor, Raymond Dart,excavated at this cave which he thought was once occupied by early humanancestors. He found ancient animal bones, weathered and broken up. It seemedclear that these were weapons stockpiled by our Australopithecine ancestors.There were also bashed-in skulls that seemed to Raymond Dart the murderousinstincts of our ancestors were even directed at each other.

RAYMOND DART:The Australopithecines particularly liked the lower jaws ofanimals that had long canine teeth, because these could be used as formidableweapons. And you can see how, with a weapon like this, they could gouge outthe eyes of any animal, and even this primitive hyena jaw could rip up abelly.

DON JOHANSON:Bob's detective work suggests that our early ancestors borelittle resemblance to killer apes. These simple vegetarians used bones andhorns to find food, not to kill. In fact, microscopic wear on the tips offossilized antelope horns indicates they were used as digging tools, not lethalweapons. The fossil evidence suggests that without protection, our ancestorswere easy prey. They were not the hunters, they were the hunted. Around twomillion years ago, a new kind of ancestor was on the move. Although they werestill small and faced many of the same dangers, they possessed a distinctadvantage. More intelligent, they used that intelligence to develop a new setof skills that gave them a crucial edge in the battle for survival. In orderto find the evidence for this new way of life, we have to travel some twothousand miles to the north. The Great Rift Valley runs for thousands of milesat Eastern Africa. It is so vast it could be seen from space. Here the Earthhas been ripped apart, exposing ancient rock layers containing fossils andstone tools millions of years old. It was in the Northern regions of the RiftValley that Ethiopian archeologist, Sileshi Semaw, uncovered the earliest stonetools. They represent a turning point in the lives of our ancestors.

PAT SHIPMAN:Early on in the study, I found a bone that had marks on it thatreally surprised me. It was a piece of the muzzle of an antelope, and it had aset of marks where we had overlapping tooth marks, like this one here, and cutmarks, as well, on the same bone, in the same spot. Both a hominid with astone tool and a carnivore with sharp teeth, something like a hyena or a lion,perhaps, processed this individual spot on that particular antelope. Not onlydid they overlap on the same spot, but microscopically, I could see that one ofthem came first.

DON JOHANSON:And it was the hyena. It came first. And Homo habilis was leftwith the scraps. It's by combining the observations from experimental studieson contemporary bones like these with observations of fossil bones from siteslike Olduvai that we can be fairly certain that Homo habilis was probably ascavenger. But what really interests me is when I go back and look at the bonecollections from the site where Lucy was found, the bones are virtuallycomplete and unbroken. But as soon as stone tools enter the fossil record, thecharacter of those bone assemblages changes dramatically. The bones are bashedup, broken, marrow is extracted, cut marks appear on the bones. And thissuggests to me that there was a major behavioral change. Perhaps it was duringthis time that early hominids obtained a taste for meat. And more than that, aneed for meat to provide essential nutrients and calories to support a largerbrain. The world around Homo habilis was changing. A drier climate wasturning nearly all the forest to grasslands, providing new challenges and newopportunities for our ancestors. The grasslands became home to grazinganimals, among them, gazelles and huge herds of wildebeest. This was good newsfor an ancestor with the taste for meat. A bountiful feast was everywhere tobe found. But our ancestors also faced new competitors. One of them was thehunting dog. The dogs begin the hunt by sending their prey into a panic.Working together, they single out the most vulnerable member of the herd.Usually it's a young or weak animal. Effective as the hunting dogs are, theirfortunes can change quickly. Armed only with stone tools, our ancestors werefor the first time in direct competition with animals like these that werefaster and more deadly. More than ever, intelligence was becoming the key tosurvival. In 1984, a remarkable discovery was made. It revealed, as neverbefore, how the human story would unfold. A skeleton was found near the shoresof Lake Turkana by Kenyan fossil hunter, Kamoya Kimeu. It belonged to aspecies called Homo erectus, an ancestor who appeared more than a million and ahalf years ago. The excavation team methodically uncovered ribs, arm and legbones, the entire lower jaw, and even a complete pelvis. The first remains ofHomo erectus had been found nearly a century earlier. But until thisdiscovery, scientists had only fragments to work with. This individual had beena young boy, about twelve years old when he died. His leg bones were not fullyformed and the wisdom teeth hadn't erupted yet. And he was smarter than anyearlier ancestor. His skull held a brain more than twice the size of Lucy's.Anatomist, Alan Walker, helped to excavate the skeleton and has studied it eversince. In this Homo erectus ancestor, he saw features entirely new in thehistory of human evolution. One obvious advancement was the enlarged brain,but Walker was particularly fascinated by the body build, which provides cluesas to how this ancestor competed on the African plain. The arms and legs wereslim, but strong, the kind of bone structure you only get with strenuousphysical activity. 041b061a72


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