You may have heard the announcement last week of the discovery of 4.4 million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus — “Ardi,” for short — the oldest hominid skeleton ever found. This Sunday, Oct. 11, Discovery Channel presents an exclusive chronicle of the long journey to get to that announcement.
The program, Discovering Ardi, is the result of a 10-year collaboration between the Middle Awash Research Project, which discovered the remains, and Primary Pictures of Atlanta. Director Rod Paul and his team worked closely with the scientists to develop an unprecedented level of detail, accuracy and coverage of the discovery of Ardi — much of it as it happened — on location in Ethiopia. Through permissions granted by the Ethiopian Government, initial filming took place in 1999 and was followed by three additional shoots in the desert research area and at the National Museum in Addis Ababa. Additional filming was done at The University of Tokyo laboratory of project scientist Dr. Gen Suwa, and at locations in the United States.
The world premiere special begins its story with the 1974 discovery of Australopithecus afarensis in Hadar, northeastern Ethiopia. Nicknamed “Lucy,” this 3.2 million-year-old skeleton was, at the time, the oldest hominid skeleton ever found. Of course, Lucy’s title would be overtaken 20 years later by the 1994 discovery of “Ardi” in Ethiopia’s Afar region in the Middle Awash study area. It would take an elite international team of experts the next 15 years to delicately, meticulously and methodically piece together “Ardi” and her lost world in order to reveal her significance in the story of human evolution.
The film uses both location sequences and extensive computer-generated animation to detail the original research. Dramatic aerial footage was filmed in 2007. No re-creations took place. In 2007, Primary Pictures reached agreement with Discovery Channel for that network to have exclusive broadcast rights for both Discovering Ardi and a companion special to be broadcast in the coming year. Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs host) narrates Discovering Ardi.
UPDATE (10/12): REBROADCAST INFORMATION
After delivering strong numbers during its premiere, Discovery Channel will be re-airing Discovering Ardi on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 9pm ET/PT.
Credit: Jay H. Matternes