Uniquely human abilities – to think in symbols; recombine those symbols into infinite meanings; invent a technology to disseminate the message; ponder the past; speculate about the future; imagine the unknown; build cities; compose music – constitute the “human spark.” In this three-part series, host Alan Alda searches for the origin and nature of this spark.
In the caves of the Dordogne region of France, host Alan Alda witnesses the spectacular paintings and carvings that date back some 30,000 years, artwork that archeologists once thought to be the first record of people with minds like ours. When this art was created, Europe had already been peopled for hundreds of thousands of years by Neanderthals. Alda discovers, from visits to sites where Neanderthals once lived, that they were tenacious and resourceful, but they produced no art and employed a stone tool technology that changed little over millennia. The people who painted the caves, our ancestors, were strikingly different, possessed of the “human spark,” capable not only of art but of innovative technology and symbolic communication. Alda asks: Where and when did the human spark first ignite? In these caves, as archeologists have long believed? Or at a much earlier time – and on another continent?
Watch Monday, August 15, 2011 at 9pm.