8:30pm Tuesday, 24 June 2014
This is the story of two scientists who are confronted by their own discovery of mysterious ancient human remains that challenge everything we know about human evolution. Not only could these remains represent a new species of human, but one that existed alongside our own kind.
In March 2012, Australian paleoanthropologist, Darren Curnoe and Chinese palaeontologist, Ji Xueping announced the startling discovery of prehistoric human remains from a remote cave in South West China. They dubbed them the 'Red Deer Cave people'. They were unlike any human remains known to science. Not only were they a unique mix of primitive and modern features, but they were also young - between 11,500 and 14,500 years old! That makes these fossils the youngest ever, which possess physical features different to our own, found in the world. Who were these mysterious Red Deer Cave people? Were they a new species of human living alongside our own ancestors? And why did they disappear?
We join the scientific team on its mission to solve the mysteries of these bones, and to unravel the clues that reveal incredible details about how these people lived, and possibly why they died. Tantalising evidence from the cave site in China poses some chilling, even macabre possibilities concerning their fate and their connection to us.
The implications of the discovery for understanding the evolution of our own species, and the broader human story are profound. Scientific orthodoxy contends that our modern human ancestors only inhabited East Asia after the disappearance of earlier ancient humans. The existence of the Red Deer Cave people is further evidence that the truth may be something else entirely. Our own species may have coexisted with the Red Deer Cave people for tens of thousands of years until very recently for.
Using stunning dramatic reconstructions we step into the world of the Red Deer Cave people in the lush forests, recreated in exquisite detail, of South West China. Leaping back in time from the present day scientific investigation a Stone Age struggle for survival is reveal between our own modern human ancestors and these other human groups.
Could co-existing with these Red Deer Cave people have shaped our evolution? Could they be part of us? If so, it would cause us to rethink what we know about what makes us 'human'. The fate of these people may have been crucial to the survival of our own species.
Drawing together this latest discovery with other recent groundbreaking finds in the region, this documentary explores an amazing new chapter in our evolutionary story - the Asian chapter. Combining scientific adventure, insightful interviews, and stunning reconstructions, Enigma Man: A Stone Age History is a comprehensive account of an emerging new view of human evolution - a view with profound significance to all of us.