About the series
Origins of Us tells the story of our species, homo sapiens. In every one of our bodies is the evidence of how we evolved away from our ape cousins to become the adaptable, successful species we are today.
Anatomist and physical anthropologist Dr Alice Roberts reveals the key adaptations in our body that has contributed to our extra-ordinary success. Far from being inevitable, the evolution of our species is a product of pure chance. And with each anatomical advantage comes a cost, which many of us are still paying today. Bad backs, painful childbirth, impacted wisdom teeth are all a by-product of our evolutionary success.
This is a journey through your own body, 6 million years and 300 000 generations of our family, from a tree dwelling ape in the forests of Africa, to you and the six billion other humans on Earth today.
Find out more about our presenter Dr Alice Roberts
Dr Alice Roberts is an anatomist, physical anthropologist, broadcaster and science author.Alice Roberts' official website
After studying anatomy and medicine at Cardiff University she worked as a doctor, and then as an anatomy lecturer at the University of Bristol, where she undertook research in physical anthropology. Investigating what ancient skeletons tell us about the evolution of humans, diversity of the species and ancient diseases, she achieved a PhD in palaeopathology.
Alice now runs anatomy courses for trainee surgeons as Director of Anatomy for the NHS Severn Deanery School of Surgery, and is also an honorary fellow of Hull York Medical School and Bristol University’s Department of Archaeology and Anthropology.
On television, prior to Origins of Us, Alice has used her expertise in anthropology and anatomy to present The Incredible Human Journey, Don't Die Young, Digging for Britain, a Horizon documentary on human evolution, and How to Build a Dinosaur. She has also presented Coast and Wild Swimming, after beginning her television career as a human bone specialist on Channel 4’s Time Team in 2001.
Alice was the editor in chief of the recently published Evolution: The Human Story (Dorling Kindersley). She was also consultant editor and chief contributor to The Complete Human Body anatomy book, and has also written and illustrated The Incredible Human Journey and Don’t Die Young. She supports public engagement with science as a Member of the Advisory Panel for the Cheltenham Science Festival, and enjoys giving public lectures.
Alice lives near Bristol with her husband, daughter, and scruffy dog.
Music by Niraj Chag
Composing the music for Origins was incredibly enjoyable and challenging for composer Niraj Chag. The series covers a lot of ground - one minute in the African savanna and the next could be in a modern laboratory – and Niraj wanted to contrast this musically with epic orchestral sounds, tribal African rhythms and contemporary electronica. The challenge was to combine these very different styles into a seamless score that also evolves with the narrative. For example, much of the music for the wide epic shots of forests and savannas he scored in more of a traditional orchestral way but with hints of electronica so as to keep in line with the more electronic moments in the score.
“I love bringing together different influences and finding new ways to marry genres - this is something I've always been passionate about so the process was a wonderful experience.”
Niraj spent much of his early childhood in Africa and has a real connection with African music. “There is something about the intricate rhythms and visceral vocals that I think it is hard to not be moved by. So exploring and learning about these sounds in more detail was a real treat.”
Visualising our ancestors
Giving a face to our hominin ancestors was a collaboration between scientific illustrator Stuart at KJA-Artists and Darkside Animation. Stuart's drawings were inspired by a combination of the fossil skulls, reconstructions from previous BBC shows and paleo-artist Victor Deak.
Darkside then mixed these up with hand-drawn annotations, water-damaged parchment environments and sepia grading to give a distinctive 'Da Vinci' style. Finally they added a few subtle hints of cells to tie in the anatomical aspects of the show.
When it came to putting it all together Darkside felt it needed another dimension - literally. So the illustrations were constructed in 3D and the original imagery projected back on top so no details were lost. The result was a virtual ancestor that could be rotated and flown around allowing for the use of lens effects such as depth of field, which made the graphic feel like they were shot with a real camera.
BBC TV blog
Find out what Origins Of Us presenter Dr Alice Roberts discovered when she studied wild chimpanzees in the Ugandan forest: “they were all around us in the forest, and would often pass by very close, sometimes a metre or two away - which was both terrifying and exciting”Read Alice Roberts' full post on the BBC TV blog
Available on: DVD or Video download
From suppliers including: Amazon, BBC Shop, iTunes