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January 11th, 2010
Web-Exclusive Video: The South African Spark

The questions of where and why the human spark emerged are closely intertwined. Alan Alda sat down with Curtis Marean of Arizona State University to learn why he thinks the coast of South Africa is an important place to look for those first glimmerings of the human spark.

In this video Marean explains how that unique landscape and its natural resources would have been important to early humans – and allowed new cultural innovations.

What do you think of Marean’s hypothesis that South Africa was an important refugium in tough climatic times?

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You can see also some behind-the-scenes footage and photos from our campfire shoot.

  • Jenny

    This is highly contentious, borderline silly and certainly factually baseless. Marean accepts and antiquated gender stereotypes in modern society (”men play football”) and then works his way backwards to explain the gender contract.

    He has no evidence that women did not hunt with men and fails to explain how the genders became, eventually, so divided in labor. That children could not be taken to hunt is debatable, and it is also possible that children were left behind. Female lions and other animals hunt while males stay behind.

    It is just as possible that men made war not because they wanted to prove their fitness but because societies became more complex, larger and disputes developed. And because women chose larger and larger men while men chose smaller and smaller women. etc.

    “Men play football” right. And soccer and basketball. And so do women.

    I would hope that better more advanced scientific thinkers are included in PBS programs in the future.

  • 312capri

    Wow Jenny I don’t necessarily agree with your jumping to conclusions.

  • j henry

    Jenny clearly has an axe to grind that has little to do with Marean’s overall thinking about how we as a species survived from as few, perhaps, as two hundred modern sapiens. Read his 2010 article in Scientific American. I recently met Dr. Marean and visited the cave sites in South Africa with him and his female and male grad students.

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