Communication: New science video series on human evolution

Associate Professor Darren Curnoe with a Neanderthal model
Thursday, 26 March, 2015

A new UNSW science video series on evolution that explores some of the big questions and myths about what it means to be human has been launched.

How Did We Get Here? is produced by UNSW TV and presented by UNSW evolutionary biologist Associate Professor Darren Curnoe.

The first episode tackles the question of whether humans are still evolving. Other episodes look at our use of symbols, why we are the only species to cook our food, the concept of different human races, how similar we are to apes, and the controversial issue of whether a paleo diet like our ancestors ate would benefit human health today.

Associate Professor Curnoe says there is a surprising lack of high quality and scientifically up-to-date video material available on the web about human evolution.

“We wanted to produce a series that was entertaining, informative and true to the latest scientific research, and that could be used as a teaching aid in schools and universities around the world,” he says.

The series uses animations and humour to get the science across and is suitable for audiences aged 15 years or older. It will be available on the UNSWTV You-Tube channel and will also screen on ABC Splash and ScienceAlert. Distribution in China, Vietnam and Indonesia is planned.

UNSWTV Director, Mary O’Malley, says this kind of short-form, educational web series has a big future. “The combination of factual knowledge and humour is perfect for the YouTube generation, and eminently shareable,” she says.

Some of the scenes were filmed at the Australian Museum and at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, and the series was launched at the Australian Museum by the UNSW Dean of Science, Professor Merlin Crossley, and museum director Kim McKay.

“Apart from the creative enjoyment of making this series, the opportunity to strengthen links between UNSW and other scientific institutions has been a highlight of the project,” Ms O’Malley says.

In 2012, Associate Professor Curnoe co-discovered the remains of the Red Deer Cave people – archaic humans with a unique mix of primitive and modern features who lived in southwest China between 14,500 and 11,500 years ago.

The discovery was named as the top archaeological research finding in the world for 2011—2012 at the inaugural Shanghai Archaeological Forum in 2013.

Last year he featured in Enigma Man: A Stone Age Mystery – an hour-long documentary on the Red Deer Cave discovery, produced by Electric Pictures, which screened on ABC TV.

Associate Professor Curnoe has also written many popular science articles on human evolution and is a regular commentator on archaeology on ABC radio.

Media contacts:

Associate Professor Darren Curnoe: 9385 8929,

UNSW Science media officer: Deborah Smith: 9385 7307, 0478 492 060,