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NOVA; Neanderthals On Trial



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Neanderthals On Trial
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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

In 1998 scientists studying the 25,000-year-old remains of a child found in central Portugal made a stunning discovery: the skeleton appeared to be a hybrid between modern humans and Neanderthals. Was this the smoking gun that proved our ancestors and Neanderthals had interbred? NOVA probes the deepening mystery and conflicting evidence of a people who have spawned a century and a half of controversy. NOVA was given special behind-the-scenes access during examination of the Portuguese child’s body, which is the latest find in a field that dates to the 1856 unearthing of the first Neanderthal remains in Germany’s Neander valley. Neanderthals were a stocky, powerfully built people who lived in Ice Age Europe from about 250,000 to 28,000 years ago. They used rudimentary tools, took care of their injured, and buried their dead—in one case, possibly, with flowers. But did this mean they were like us? The discovery of the Portuguese child was strong evidence that they were similar enough to breed with modern humans and that they may have left genetic traces in people today. However, things with Neanderthals are seldom so simple. Neanderthals on Trial also details, for the first time on television, the seemingly contradictory evidence that has emerged from the first tests of Neanderthal DNA, including samples obtained from the original Neander skeleton in Germany. These results show no clear connection to the modern human line.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Chicago: “NOVA; Neanderthals On Trial,” 12/31/2001, GBH Archives, accessed February 25, 2024,
MLA: “NOVA; Neanderthals On Trial.” 12/31/2001. GBH Archives. Web. February 25, 2024. <>.
APA: NOVA; Neanderthals On Trial. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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