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The Human Family Tree (2009)

On a single day on a single street, with the DNA of just a couple of hundred random people, National Geographic Channel sets out to trace the ancestral footsteps of all humanity.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Himself - Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Michelle Dejesus ...
Herself - Genetic Subject
Michelle DeJesus ...
Herself - Genetic Subject
George Delis ...
Himself - Genetic Subject
Mehmet Demirci ...
Himself - Genetic Subject
Necla Demirci ...
Herself - Genetic Subject
Clive Finlayson ...
Himself - Director, The Gibraltar Museum
Kerry Nicholson Gonzalez ...
Herself - Genetic Subject
Jorge J. González ...
Himself - Genetic Subject
Julius Indaaya ...
Himself - Hadzabe Chief
Dennis Jenkins ...
Himself - Archaeologist, University of Oregon
Ravi Korisettar ...
Himself - Archaeologist, Karnatak University
Alma Mujezinovic ...
Herself - Genetic Subject
Eamon O'Tuama ...
Himself - Genetic Subject
Michael Petraglia ...
Himself - Archaeologist, Cambridge University
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On a single day on a single street, with the DNA of just a couple of hundred random people, National Geographic Channel sets out to trace the ancestral footsteps of all humanity.

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Documentary

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August 2009 (USA)  »

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could've been much more
19 February 2014 | by See all my reviews

Tells us all humans descend from one man who lived in Africa about 60,000 years ago, and that we all descend from one woman who lived in Africa 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. People had left Africa earlier, yet everyone alive today descends from these two relatively recent individuals.

That all Europeans, Asians, and Native Americans descend from people who lived in Central Asia 50,000 years ago.

That the Tova volcanic eruption in Southeast Asia some 74,000 years ago was a setback, and that there were other near-extinction events, presumably climate-related.

That most human genetic diversity today remains in Africa: the rest of the globe descends from only two main lines of migrants. Most human tribes never left Africa.

It's clear that the scientists who did the genomic research to learn this, have a map of when and where genetic markers first appear, and where they travel.

But we are shown only some of it, and only as an aside. Most of the show is of people today, most of it in Queens, New York, and a lot of the show is of people getting their cheeks swabbed.

There's a fascinating story to tell, of human migration. We're given bits of it, along with a lot of not much. Even the magnificent cave paintings of Southern Europe are given a just quick camera pan; as much time is spent showing a woman in New York drawing on a pad of paper.

So, as an update to Bronowski's epic The Ascent of Man, it leaves much to be desired. As How I Spent My Saturday, by the chief swabber of the genome project, it's well done.


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