The Great Human Race: NatGeo gets back to ancient school basics

It seems as though the more technologically advanced we get in the United States, "civilized" if you like, the larger the fascination with real human survival, the kind that took place for thousands of years until our ancestors -- not very long ago at all when you're talking about the history of live beings on this planet -- figured out how to use the objects around them to get food, to make fire, to survive.

The Great Human Race, NatGeo's latest reality show foray on this sub-genre (premieres on Monday, February 1st, 2016 at 10:00/9:00c), takes a particular slant that has a rather interesting appeal relative to the goodly number of shows that touch on surviving in the wild and the like.

the great human race

The concept of The Great Human Race is simple and clever: drop two people on different points on the "migratory route" of human history -- from Africa to North America -- and see what happens. But the nice angle here is that the two people are experts in their respective fields: anthropology and survivalism. The anthropologist is Bill Schindler, associate professor in anthropology and archaeology at Washington College, while the survival expert is Cat Bigney, a teacher at Utah's Boulder Outdoor Survival School.

In this clip, called "Bringing the meat to higher ground," we get a quick and visual guide to what it must have been like during a time when humans and (other) predatory animals were on a much more level footing.

"We can't get too greedy right now," we hear as the pair scrambles to pull raw meat off of a battered-looking animal carcass in the wild. The implications are clear: if the two can't make hay while the sun shines, so to speak, a lion or other such nasty large beasty would be adding to its bounty.

But it gets more interesting. Without ordinary human tools by our modern standards -- a knife, a saw, or even a shovel -- you can't just drag a massive pile of flesh and bones off to a campsite overseen lovingly by a crew of glamping employees. Bill and Cat engage in a strange maneuver that looks like pulling apart a huge wishbone. "This marrow's important enough that we can get it," one says.

And finally, they have not precious meat to carry off, but a large bone. Finally, at higher ground, they bring the food up into the trees.

"That is the marrow. Full of fat, full of calories... Tastes good. It's like eating butter," Bill says. And you get a sense that were that you in that situation, living on the edge of survival (or at least the reality show near-replica of it), you might feel very much the same way.

"Using stone tools to break open bones was a milestone for our evolution," voiceover guy then tells us. We then learn that humans' ability to access and consume bone marrow was essential for our brain growth.

If that's but a taste, so to speak, of what The Great Human Race offers, it's a pretty fine mix of docu-series entertainment and education alike.

By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

About the author

Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at] 

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