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Bones of Turkana

Tue, 05/15/2012 - 3:57pm -- WCVE

Bones of Turkana, the stunning new National Geographic Special, follows Richard Leake’s astonishing life and investigates four decades of exploration and discovery in Africa, alongside Meave and Louise, both paleontologists and National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence. The film is both a portrait of a remarkable family and a dramatic tale that spotlights the new work being done today by world-famous fossil-hunters of the Turkana Basin Institute team as they explore along the harsh, arid shores of one of Earth’s largest desert lakes. It’s a setting so stark, it’s hard to imagine we ever called it home. But the fossil evidence says we did.

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The new aim is to find in the bones of Turkana evidence of the basic, most definitive traits that make us human. Aiding Leakey in his quest are scientists from around the world who have also chosen to focus their efforts on Turkana Basin. French archeologist Helene Roche, American geochemist Thure Cerling, Cambridge University anthropologists Marta Lahr and Rob Foley come each year with their teams to hunt for bones and stones around Turkana. Their mission: to find evidence of these critical stages of human evolution — bipedalism, tool-making and language — and when these traits arose in the fossil record of Turkana. Together, these scientists paint an indelible picture of the transformation of a species — ours —from a tree-swinger to a fast-running, quick-thinking, stone-tool-making linguist with a special gift.

Cinematic and breathtaking, Bones of Turkana is shot in the extraordinary light of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley. Cutting edge CGI animation depicts hominids in motion, the cognitive leaps involved in early stone tool-making, and climate changes in the region over millions of years. Music from celebrated Africaphile Paul Simon combines with the voices of the Kenyan Boys Choir to create an ethereal and unforgettable soundtrack befitting this story of a passionate search for truth in the Kenyan desert.

Watch the broadcast premiere on May 16, 2012 at 10:00 p.m. on WCVE PBS/WHTJ PBS.