WGBH Openvault

NOVA; In Search of Human Origins


License Clip

More material is available from this program at the WGBH Archive. If you are a researcher interested in accessing the collection at WGBH, please email archive_requests@wgbh.org.

Undigitized item: Request Digitization

Untranscribed item: Request Transcription

In Search of Human Origins
Program Number


Series Description

Premiered March 1974 NOVA is a general-interest documentary series that addresses a single science issue each week. Billed as "science adventures for curious grown-ups" when it first aired in March, 1974, NOVA continues to offer an informative and entertaining approach to a challenging subject. 1996 marked NOVA's 23rd season, which makes it the longest-running science program on national television. It is also one of television's most acclaimed series, having won every major television award, most of them many times over. Series release date: 3/3/1974

Program Description

Broadcast in 1994, this miniseries explores how humankind became homo sapiens--a revolutionary epic that reaches back more than three million years to a human ancestor, nicknamed "Lucy," who resembled an ape, yet walked upright. Donald C. Johanson, the noted anthropologist who discovered Lucy, hosts the series. The first hour explores the events surrounding Lucy's discovery in 1974 and how her remains have revolutionized the way scientists think about mankind's earliest ancestors. Johanson takes viewers to the site where he discovered Lucy, in Ethiopia, along with evidence for the extinct world in which she lived and died. The second part hypothesizes that mankind's ancestors of 2 million years ago were scavengers, surviving off the kills of big predators. Johanson shows how their use of tools and need to understand their surroundings may have led to the development of larger brains. In the final segment, we learn that as our ancestors moved from scavenging to hunting, they began to outgrow the resources of the African continent and had to migrate. Johanson looks at when this may have happened and at what point humans may have become anatomically like modern humans. Johanson travels to Australia, which was populated by emigrants from Asia 60,000 years ago, to look at migration patterns. Scientists also show why cave paintings were made and explores debate about Neanderthals--were they a side path in human development or part of our cultural heritage?



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “NOVA; In Search of Human Origins,” 01/11/1994, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 12, 2018, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_8BA38036694B4E6DAACD08D6E5214ED4.
MLA: “NOVA; In Search of Human Origins.” 01/11/1994. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 12, 2018. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_8BA38036694B4E6DAACD08D6E5214ED4>.
APA: NOVA; In Search of Human Origins. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_8BA38036694B4E6DAACD08D6E5214ED4
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.