DISCOVERING ARDI: A Discovery Channel Exclusive, World Premiere Special and Companion Website Documents the Research Behind Breaking News About Human Evolution
DISCOVERING ARDI Airs Sunday, October 11 from 9-11 PM (ET/PT) --
-- Special CBS News-Produced Roundtable Discussion Airs at 11 PM (ET/PT) --
Silver Spring, Md. - Following today’s publication in the journal Science on the find and study of a 4.4 million-year-old female partial skeleton nicknamed “Ardi,” Discovery Channel will present a world premiere special, DISCOVERING ARDI, Sunday October 11 from 9-11 PM (ET/PT). The two-hour special documents the sustained, intensive investigation leading up to the landmark publication of the Ardipithecus ramidus fossils. To accompany the program, Discovery today launched an extensive website, www.discovery.com/ardi, for people who want to know more about “Ardi” and her surroundings. In addition, UNDERSTANDING ARDI, a one-hour special produced in collaboration with CBS News, moderated by former CBS and CNN anchor Paula Zahn, will air at 11 PM (ET/PT). The special includes research team members Dr. Tim White, Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Dr. Giday WoldeGabriel, Dr. Owen Lovejoy, Brooks Hanson, Deputy Managing Editor for the Physical Sciences, Science and science journalist Ann Gibbons.
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.
“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.
The international research team weighed in on the scope of the project and its findings:
“These are the results of a scientific mission to our deep African past,” said project co-director and geologist, Dr. Giday WoldeGabriel of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
“The novel anatomy that we describe in these papers fundamentally alters our understanding of human origins and early evolution,” said project anatomist and evolutionary biologist, Professor C. Owen Lovejoy, Kent State University.
Project co-director and paleontologist Professor Tim White of the Human Evolution Research Center at the University of California Berkeley adds, “Ardipithecus is not a chimp. It’s not a human. It’s what we used to be.”
“Discovery Channel is thrilled to tell the story of Ardipithecus ramidus. In DISCOVERING ARDI, we show viewers the scientific analysis undertaken by this international team of 47 scientists as they piece together the hominid bones and link the evidence of thousands of other animals and plant fossils. The science in DISCOVERING ARDI is core to our mission and we have taken great care to tell the story of this amazing scientific find,” said John Ford, President and General Manager of Discovery Channel.
DISCOVERING ARDI is the result of a ten-year collaboration between the Middle Awash research project 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 Ardipithecus ramidus, 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 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. As the Discovery Channel special documents, 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.
The film uses both location sequences and extensive computer-generated animation to detail the original research. Dramatic aerial footage was filmed in 2007, capturing the stark beauty and drama of the Middle Awash depression. 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, as well as a companion hour to be broadcast in the coming year. Both programs are designed to bring the many discoveries of the Middle Awash team to a wide viewing public. DIRTY JOBS host Mike Rowe narrates.
Discovery will offer a comprehensive, immersive experience for online users at: www.discovery.com/ardi. This special companion website to DISCOVERING ARDI includes The Ardipithecus Handbook, a rich interactive that explores the major elements of the “Ardi” discovery. These include: A Chronicle of Discovery - a photo timeline featuring images taken by the Middle Awash team during three field seasons spent excavating the skeleton in the Ethiopia desert; and Bringing “Ardi” to Life, the exclusive illustrated story of how the celebrated natural history artist Jay Matternes recreated “Ardi” with painstaking, remarkable accuracy.
Video features at www.discovery.com/ardi include a multiple playlist:
* Building an Ancestor -- How science and advanced engineering technology transformed a fragile partial skeleton into a walking, tree-climbing digital hominid.
* Why We Stood Up -- Video extras featuring Dr. Owen Lovejoy making the case for his compelling theory of why our ancestors took a chance on bipedality.
* The Discoverers Speak -- Reflections, conclusions and questions from the Ethiopian and American team scientists.
DISCOVERING ARDI is produced for Discovery Channel by Primary Pictures. Rod Paul is executive producer. Paul Gasek is executive producer for Discovery Channel.
For additional press information about DISCOVERING ARDI, please visit: http://press.discovery.com/us/dsc/programs/discoveringardi/
About Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel (DSC) is dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content that informs and entertains its consumers about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement. The network, which reaches 98.1 million viewers in the US, can be seen in over 170 countries, offering a signature mix of compelling, high-end production values and vivid cinematography across genres including, science and technology, exploration, adventure, history and in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the people, places and organizations that shape and share our world. For more information, please visit www.discovery.com.
About Discovery Communications
Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) is the world’s number one nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 170 countries. Discovery empowers people to explore their world and satisfy their curiosity through 100-plus worldwide networks, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Planet Green, Investigation Discovery and HD Theater, as well as leading consumer and educational products and services, and a diversified portfolio of digital media services including HowStuffWorks.com. For more information, please visit www.discoverycommunications.com.
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