By Madhup. Chandigarh, 17th October: Discovery Channel has announced the premiere of a two-hour special, DISCOVERING ARDI, documenting the sustained, intensive investigation leading up to the landmark publication of the Ardipithecus ramidus fossils of a 4.4 million-year-old female partial skeleton nicknamed “Ardi”. Discovery Channel has been granted exclusive broadcast rights for DISCOVERING ARDI, which is scheduled to premiere in November. To accompany the programme, Discovery has also launched an extensive website, www.discovery.com/ardi for people who want to know more about Ardi and her surroundings.
Ardi is now the oldest skeleton from our (hominid) branch of the primate family tree. These Ethiopian discoveries reveal an early grade of human evolution in Africa that predated the famous Australopithecus nicknamed “Lucy”. Ardipithecus was a woodland creature with a small brain, long arms, and short legs. The pelvis and feet show a primitive form of two-legged walking on the ground, but Ardipithecus was also a capable tree climber, with long fingers and big toes that allowed its feet to grasp like those of an ape. The discoveries answer questions about how hominids became bipedal.
Narrated by Discovery Channel’s DIRTY JOBS host Mike Rowe, DISCOVERING ARDI begins its story with the 1974 discovery of Australopithecus afarensis in Hadar, northeastern Ethiopia. This 3.2 million year old skeleton, “Lucy”, was, at the time, the oldest hominid skeleton ever found.
Utilising both location sequences and extensive computer-generated animation, the DISCOVERING ARDI details the original research. The documentary also features dramatic aerial footage filmed in 2007, capturing the stark beauty and drama of the Middle Awash depression. No re-creations took place.
The scientific investigation that began in the Ethiopian desert 17 years ago opens a new chapter on human evolution, revealing the first evolutionary steps our ancestors took after we diverged from a common ancestor we once shared with living chimpanzees. Ardi’s centerpiece skeleton, the other hominids she lived with, and the rocks, soils, plants and animals that made up her world were analyzed in laboratories around the globe. The scientists have now published their findings in the prestigious journal Science.