The Incredible Human Journey (2009) s01e03 Episode Script

Europe

ALICE ROBERTS: they say this is where it all began.
that we are all children of Africa.
But if so, why do we look so different? And how on earth could a handful of African families become a whole world full of people? I'm Alice Roberts, medical doctor and anthropologist.
I'm fascinated by what bones, stones, and even our bodies can reveal about the distant past.
I'm going in search of the traces left by our African ancestors and their journeys to populate the world.
this time, Europe.
A dangerous journey and a formidable rival.
We're going to be excavating the sea bottom in search of Neanderthals.
the unexpected weapons in our battle for survival.
I don't think it would have even crossed my mind to mate with a Neanderthal.
Spectacular new discoveries.
I'm blown away by that.
I mean, that is just amazing.
And the surprising story of why Europeans turned white.
Come with me in the footsteps of our ancestors on the most epic adventure ever undertaken.
My journey begins in the remote forests of Eastern Europe.
SILvIu: Okay, so you see the cave is down there.
ROBERTS: I'm being led to an ancient cave.
Its location is only known to a handful of people, including Silviu constantin.
I'm in Romania, somewhere to the south of Transylvania, and I'm just about to enter the cave of pestera cu Oase.
It's very remote - about a day and a half's drive from the capital, Bucharest, and then a trek through the woods.
But I've wanted to come to this place ever since I first heard what was found here.
Because just a few years ago an incredibly exciting discovery was made in this cave.
(WATER DRIPPING) ROBERTS: Something had been hidden here for thousands of years.
Something extremely rare.
In 2002, a group of divers exploring the furthest reaches of the cave discovered a hidden chamber.
the cave became known as Pestera cu Oase, ''the cave of Bones.
'' ROBERTS: And how's it looking? Are we gonna have to go right underwater? ROBERTS: We're following the course of an underground river through narrow tunnels.
ROBERTS: pretty tight.
Eventually, we get close to where the discovery was made.
(PEOPLE CHATTERING) Silviu, this looks like the end of the line.
And, Silviu, when you came to the cave, what did you find here? ROBERTS: And how old is it? And 40,000 years old makes it the first human remains, modern-human remains, in Europe, and you must have been excited when you got that date.
Which was And this is what they found.
Not in one piece like this, but in hundreds of fragments which have been painstakingly glued back together until we can look at the face of the first known modern European.
And we can be absolutely sure that this is a modern human.
The shape of the skull is unmistakable.
This lovely round brain case just gives it away.
But there are some bits of it that are distinctly less modern-looking.
It's got enormous teeth.
They are massive, compared with the teeth of people today.
Now, those huge teeth are also reflected in the jawbone from the cave, which is from another person, but it's also very robust, very chunky.
And so, when I look at the jawbone and the skull together, I can start to imagine what those early Europeans looked like.
Much more rugged in the face than people do today.
ROBERTS: Who was this person? Forensic artist Richard Neave has helped the police solve murder cases by reconstructing faces from skulls.
In the hope of discovering more about the first Europeans we've asked him to reconstruct the face of the Oase skull.
-So this is Oase.
-This is Oase.
There we are.
It's wonderful to see, him or her, we're not quite sure, are we -No, no.
-fleshed out.
RICHARD: A touch androgynous, maybe, this one.
ROBERTS: It's quite strange, actually, 'cause this doesn't particularly look like European or African or Asian.
It looks, sort of, almost quite generic, but then I suppose that's what you'd expect from one of the earliest Europeans.
RICHARD: You look at this and you can think to yourself, it could go either way.
(STAMMERS) It's almost as though it's a face in flux.
It's got features which could go in any direction.
It could become Negroid.
It could become Southeast Asian.
It could become European.
There's the potential for all those different directions and that's what I find so exciting about it.
ROBERTS: Obviously you've made this in clay and that's why it's brown, but -Yes.
-in fact, it's very likely that these earliest of Europeans were quite dark-skinned, much, much darker-skinned than we think of Europeans being today.
-Yes.
-Because, at the end of the day, you know, they're only just arriving in Europe.
They're coming from much more tropical places.
-Yeah.
-So, I think, you know, we may be looking at something which is actually quite lifelike here.
RICHARD: We're not too far from No.
ROBERTS: No.
I've been really excited to see what this face would end up looking like, and I do feel as though I'm getting much closer to our ancestors.
But where did these first European people come from? And why do we find their bones in a Romanian cave? Previously, I found evidence that everyone outside Africa descends from one small group of people that left the continent around 70,000 years ago.
Some of their descendants must have made it north, through the Middle East, towards modern-day turkey.
This is border country.
Thirty miles away, Turkey meets Syria and the Middle East.
Today, everything in that direction might look alien and hostile, but 50,000 years ago it was Europe, the land that lay ahead, which would be more dangerous than they could ever have imagined.
Venturing this way, people would have been coming to lands far colder and more challenging than anything they'd experienced before.
traces of their journey all that time ago are few and far between.
But some important clues have been unearthed in southern turkey.
And this is how we know that people came through Turkey at this point in time.
Now, it might look utterly insignificant, but shells like this one were found at a place called ucagizli on the Turkish coast and they are vital clues.
The hole in them suggests that they were pendants, perhaps part of a necklace, and the ucagizli shell beads date back to around 42,000 years ago.
They are the first pieces of evidence that we have as we follow the trail of our European ancestors.
there may have been other routes into Europe, but the evidence we have seems to point in this direction.
So I'm heading to Istanbul.
Here, for a few turkish lira, taxi drivers like Ehsan Akmar carry their passengers between two continents.
EHSAN: That's Golden Horn.
ROBERTS: Right.
(LAuGHING) I'll tell you what, I'll hold that, you drive.
No, no.
Don't worry about that.
I don't kill anybody yet.
Allah! Allah! Why you don't trust me? (ROBERTS LAuGHING) (EHSAN SPEAKING ARABIC) ROBERTS: So, Ehsan, as a taxi driver EHSAN: Yeah? do you cross over between Asia and Europe every day? -Most people live in Asian side.
-ROBERTS: Yeah.
Working that side.
Because most office and business here, more houses there.
But I'm here looking for traces of people who crossed the Bosporus maybe 50, maybe 40,000 years ago.
My God! How can I know that time? (SPEAKING ARABIC) Let me I pray.
(BOTH LAuGHING) This is too I don't know how can this generation How can I know that generation? My God! Alice, now, you're made me trouble that kind.
But that's okay.
ROBERTS: I bail out of the taxi and catch the ferry to cross from one continent to another.
this is the Bosporus, and here it separates Asia from Europe.
this is one challenge our ancestors would not have faced.
When they came this way, sea levels were much lower and they could have walked across into Europe.
But can we really retrace their steps, using only a few shells and a scattering of artefacts? The good news is we don't have to.
The evidence is all around us - or to be more precise, inside all of us.
Our DNA tells us something incredible by revealing the existence of one very special woman.
We don't know who she was or where she lived.
And in fact, we have no physical evidence of her at all.
No bones.
No stone tools.
No beads.
But we do know that she existed because of her genetic legacy.
And some scientists have felt moved to name her Europa, because in one sense hers is the founding lineage of Europe.
today, 10% of Europeans can trace their genes back to this one woman.
Geneticists estimate that she lived around 40,000 years ago.
And that fits with the archaeological evidence, like those shell beads.
It's incredible to think of Europa's descendants as a small wave of nomads, making their way through this region all those years ago.
But where might they have gone next? For our ancestors, where I'm going now would have been a journey into the unknown.
This is the River Danube, and today it flows through capital cities like Budapest and vienna.
But 40,000 years ago, it would have been a gateway to a whole new world.
I'm going to follow our ancestors upstream, right into the heart of Europe.
North of Istanbul is the Black Sea, and the mouth of the Danube.
the river runs through Romania, very close to the Oase cave and the earliest known European.
It looks like those first few colonisers may have been using the Danube as a super-highway, heading west.
But as they followed the Danube's mighty meandering course, they were in for a shock.
Something or someone had got there before them.
Europa's descendants weren't entering virgin territory.
For a quarter of a million years, another species of human had called Europe home.
the Neanderthals.
This is a reconstruction of a man who lived a very long time ago in Italy.
And he's not a modern human, he's a Neanderthal.
And I think when you first look at his face, the similarities probably strike you more than the differences, so he looks quite human.
Would you notice him walking along in the street? But then there are things which do look a bit odd.
The distance between his eyes.
The breadth of his nose, just here.
That looks a bit strange.
And he's got this amazing brow ridge.
It really sticks out over his eyes.
Neanderthals are our distant cousins.
their ancestors reached Europe hundreds of thousands of years before us.
they spread across a huge region, from Siberia to Spain.
So when Homo sapiens first arrived around 40,000 years ago, Europe was already taken.
What were our ancestors up against? the popular image of Neanderthals is lumbering and slow-witted.
ROBERTS: What do you think they would have thought of each other? (LAuGHS) I think they would have been really scared of each other.
It's actually very hard to imagine what they would have thought of each other.
I think it would have been a fascinating experience to watch a sort of contact like that, between two very closely related species, that are also clearly very different from each other, both anatomically, as you can see, but also behaviourally.
And in terms of differences between Neanderthals and modern humans, is there anything we can say about how that might have influenced behaviour? Okay, the one thing to point out is that Neanderthals were actually sophisticated hunters, we know that they were top predators.
And actually, they have very large brains - on average, larger than ours.
ROBERTS: As well as big brains, the Neanderthals may have had another advantage.
they had been in Europe long enough to adapt to the cold.
their stocky bodies and short limbs helped them to stay warm.
And that's not all.
This is a reconstructed Neanderthal skeleton, and generally speaking the skeleton is very similar to ours.
Having said that, there are definite differences - the shape of all the bones is subtly different.
And anywhere that muscles attach on this skeleton is much more prominent than it would be in a modern human.
So this would have been a person who was much more heavily muscled, generally much more rugged-looking than us today.
they would have been formidable competitors.
The Neanderthals were tougher and better cold-adapted than us, and some of them even had bigger brains than modern humans.
On the face of it, then, it seems quite surprising that our species lasted very long at all.
So how did we overcome the Neanderthals? Maybe our tools and weapons were just better than theirs.
Well, for decades that's exactly what the experts thought.
But this idea hadn't been thoroughly tested - until now.
So how are you doing? Oh, doing all right.
(ALL SIGH) ROBERTS: Bruce Bradley and Metin Eren spent over a year making thousands of basic cutting tools.
ROBERTS: So you've got these two tools, this one a basic tool made by a Neanderthal, and this one a basic tool made by a modern human, -at the same sort of period.
-BRuCE: Correct.
Now, they're obviously very different-looking.
This one's long and thin and this one is round.
But are they different in terms of function, in terms of what they're used for? They were used for the same kind of tasks.
Mostly cutting tasks.
So, for example, I mean, both are really sharp, if you want to use both of those to cut.
Some pretty thick leather here.
ROBERTS: This is a typical Neanderthal tool? Exactly.
You can see that it just cuts through this very thick leather very easily.
(LAuGHS) That is incredibly sharp.
METIN: Yes.
ROBERTS: Look at that.
Wow.
-And this is really tough leather.
-That's really effective, isn't it? ROBERTS: That's brilliant.
METIN: Yeah.
BRuCE: Now let's try the blade.
Hold it very carefully, 'cause it's ROBERTS: This is the sort of thing that was made by modern humans.
BRuCE: Exactly.
ROBERTS: If anything, I would say that the flake is a bit I mean, that's cutting, but just You know, just picking up the tool and using it immediately, I'd say the flake's actually a bit easier to use.
When we created thousands of tools, we found that the technology of the Neanderthals actually produced more cutting edge, overall, it wasted less raw material and you could produce more tools than the blade cores of the modern Homo sapiens.
I imagine that's very new, isn't it? It's quite remarkable, because you're telling me that the Neanderthal technology is just as good, in fact, if not better than the modern humans'.
I mean, that goes against everything that people have said for the last few decades.
That's true, and it was a very exciting result.
ROBERTS: It's just one study on one aspect of tool-making.
But I still think it's important.
This is fascinating, and it means that the long-standing theory about modern human technology being superior to Neanderthal stone tools just doesn't stand up.
I want to see if there's another explanation for why we survived and Neanderthals didn't.
I'm on my way to meet an expert who thinks the answer may be much less obvious Okay, Alice, let's see if I can find everything.
ROBERTS: thanks to some discoveries made here in Germany.
This is a very unusual artefact, because it's a flute and the strange thing about this is, what's really spectacular, is that it's made of solid mammoth ivory.
It takes between 50 and 100 hours to make one if you know how to do it.
ROBERTS: Yeah.
It's been carved down to that shape.
Yes.
It really takes talent and, really, genius in the same sense that, I don't know, a Michelangelo or Rembrandt or something like that.
ROBERTS: So it's the first sign we've had, the first archaeological evidence we've had of people making music? Yeah.
Music was a part of their lives just like it's a part of our lives today.
So what's in here? Okay.
This is a very interesting piece.
This is the representation of a phallus.
And it's not delicate at all.
-It won't break.
You can hold it.
-(LAuGHS) All right.
Okay.
-And if you look at it, the ring -Yeah.
NICHOLAS: around here, you know, it makes a fairly obvious sexual image.
(LAuGHING) Yeah.
Yeah, one could, you know, easily imagine using it in -ritual functions, or also -Yeah.
you know, straight sexual functions in one form or another.
So do you think this is the first archaeological evidence of smut? (BOTH CHuCKLE) I don't know.
I wouldn't rule that out.
(BOTH LAuGH) I can't believe it.
I'm an anatomist and you've made me blush with a bit of prehistoric phallic imagery.
ROBERTS: It seems our ancestors were more like us than we might imagine.
But this doesn't really answer my question.
After all, what use is a flute against a Neanderthal? Nicholas takes me to see the cave where the artefacts were found.
Our ancestors weren't the only people who lived here.
This is the famous southwest entrance of the cave.
This is actually very close to where the human remains remained, but there were definitely Neanderthals here.
There are a number of deposits in the lower sediments made by Neanderthals.
So Neanderthals and modern humans were definitely both here at Fuldevert, which is ROBERTS: Both using these caves? Both using this cave, but also using a number of other caves in the Lohne valley where we are.
ROBERTS: Many beautiful objects have been found in this region.
Made by our ancestors, they reveal a crucial difference between us and Neanderthals.
this figure of a lion man was made around 35,000 years ago.
But it's not a one-off.
Other strikingly similar pieces have been found in the region.
What's going on here? The modern humans, here, and for instance in the neighbouring valley make the exact same artefacts and they are definitely part of the same group.
There's no way that it's chance that you get identical artefacts at sites, you know, 20, 30, 40 kilometres away.
And that tells us that populations with a shared identity were fairly large, covering fairly large areas.
presumably interacting, mating with one another, helping each other, and Neanderthals don't seem to have had that kind of symbolic communication and seem to have maintained smaller social networks than modern humans.
ROBERTS: So it seems that, unlike Neanderthals, the scattered tribes of our ancestors were held together by a strong shared identity.
The great flowering of art suggests that people were reaching out to each other across the landscape in a way they'd never done before.
Art wasn't just something they were doing in their spare time.
It was crucial to survival, a way of marking territory and identity.
A bit like national flags or football shirts today.
And in that competition with the Neanderthals, it seems that art and what it stood for may have given us the edge.
these links between family groups may have been critical to our success.
And as we advanced, Neanderthals began to retreat to the very edge of the continent.
I'm heading to what may have been the last-ever Neanderthal colony.
And I'm hoping to discover why they finally died out.
I'm in Gibraltar, a naval stronghold for centuries, and new evidence from these rocky shores suggests that thousands of years after they disappeared from the rest of Europe, the Neanderthals were clinging on here.
When Neanderthals lived here, sea levels were up to a hundred metres lower, so much of the evidence from that time could be underwater.
A team of specialists is probing the ocean floor looking for traces of the Gibraltar Neanderthals.
We've come to a stop now because we are over the archaeological site.
It's about 20 metres below the surface of the sea below us.
The divers are all getting ready, and these are divers but also archaeologists, so they're going to be excavating the sea bottom in search of Neanderthals.
these divers are up against poor visibility with a limited oxygen supply.
Underwater archaeology is always challenging.
But clive Finlayson has already made a series of significant discoveries in the sea caves nearby.
CLIvE: This is where the last Neanderthals made their last stand, if you like, 24,000 years ago.
We get the feeling it's the nearest thing to a Neanderthal city you're gonna find anywhere.
We've got fossils, stone tools, animals that they've been butchering, all kinds of evidence, hearths, Neanderthal barbecues if you like.
It's a very, very special site.
ROBERTS: they think that Neanderthals may have held on here long after they'd been wiped out in the rest of Europe.
But after the Neanderthals finally disappeared from Gibraltar, there was a gap of 5,000 years before we turned up.
So it looks as though whatever finally killed Neanderthals off, it wasn't us.
What do you think eventually wiped them out? It may have been a numbers game - there were so few left.
As would happen to populations of endangered species today, like the panda or the tiger.
Just random fluctuation in numbers can bring it down to zero, and there's no recovery from zero, so it could've been that.
It could've been disease, in-breeding, a whole range of factors that can affect a small population and knock them over the edge.
(BIRDS SQUAWKING) I find it very moving to think that one day the last Neanderthal might have been sitting here, staring out to sea and perhaps waiting for their companions to return.
Or maybe he or she knew that they were the last of their tribe or their family.
But they can't have known that they were the last of their entire species.
So that was the end of the Neanderthals.
Or was it? Some scientists believe their descendants are still walking around today.
If our ancestors interbred with them, some of us could be part Neanderthal.
Obviously to Neanderthals, a fine Neanderthal man must have been very handsome to a Neanderthal woman.
And a Neanderthal woman, despite her massive brows and very chunky face, must have looked wonderful to a Neanderthal man.
But I think we look at them and think they look, I don't know, yeah, just a bit ugly.
I don't think it would've even crossed my mind to fancy or perhaps mate with a Neanderthal.
It seems our ancestors felt the same way as me.
Researchers are now sequencing the Neanderthal genome, using DNA from bones tens of thousands of years old, and comparing it with our own.
And so far there's no sign of any interbreeding.
Neanderthals really did die out, and Europe was ours.
Soon descendants of the first pioneers would be joined by new arrivals.
About 100% of Europeans living today are descended from those ancient pioneers who shared the continent with the Neanderthals.
But what about the rest of us? Well, our genes tell us that after the Neanderthals disappeared there was a second big wave of colonisation into Europe, and some of us appear to be descended from that wave.
I'd like to know where I fit in this story.
I've taken a genetic test.
Something anyone can do.
It should be possible for me to find out if I can trace my DNA all the way back to Europa, or whether my ancestors arrived much later.
So I've got the results back of my DNA analysis and they look extraordinarily complicated, even though this is actually only a tiny fragment of my genetic code.
And I've also got the genetic code for Europe's first lady, Europa, here in front of me, so I can compare our DNA sequences.
At first sight we seem identical.
But when you look really carefully, there are some differences.
they may be tiny, but they're crucial.
So this means I'm not descended from Europa.
And in fact these mutations tell me that I'm descended from another European founding mother.
Some have called this woman Iris, and her descendants may have been part of a new wave into Europe around 25,000 years ago.
People that seem to have come from the east, bringing a new culture with them.
I've come to the Czech Republic, to the small village of Doln/' Vestonice, famous for some big archaeological discoveries.
So what do they reveal about this new culture? ROBERTS: Oh, that's beautiful.
So, we've got several tusks like this in Central and Eastern Europe which always have a very complex type of engraving.
And one thing that could be suggested is that this thing could be a meandering river.
ROBERTS: Right.
The way how the tusk is decorated could have had some sort of a meaning, like accessibility of the field or good for hunting, bad for hunting, you can push mammoth through or you cannot.
-ROBERTS: So it's a map? -A kind of a map.
And the whole strategy of an action could be planned on a piece of ivory like that.
ROBERTS: We'll never know for sure if it was a map.
But other artefacts found here are much more significant.
this is the Venus of Doln/' Vestonice.
One of the earliest pieces of pottery in the world.
But the really exciting thing is that other Venus figurines have been unearthed all over the continent.
What this means is that for the first time people shared a distinct culture right across Europe.
But in the next few thousand years our European ancestors would face a threat that would almost wipe them out.
(THuNDERCLAP) ROBERTS: Europe was about to experience devastating climate change.
the peak of the Ice Age.
Animals disappeared from the landscape and the ground froze over.
Our ancestors couldn't survive in these Arctic conditions.
By 24,000 years ago, Britain was uninhabitable, covered in ice half a mile thick.
(WIND BLOWING) And still the ice sheets pushed further south, squeezing life from the land and almost wiping out our ancestors in Europe.
This is the vezere valley in the Dordogne.
During the last Ice Age, the hills around here would have been bound tight by frost.
And with wind chill, the temperature up there could be as much as 20 degrees colder than down here in the valley, where a warmish micro-climate meant life could go on, and small bands of hunter-gatherers would've huddled together to survive the long, bitter winters.
But they may not have survived at all, had it not been for this the rock shelters and caves that riddle the landscape.
And deep underground, they left something that we still marvel at today.
(WATER DRIPPING) I'm in a cave called pech Merle, which is stunningly beautiful naturally, but look at this - this is real artistic expression.
Something that defines us and sets us apart as a species.
And pech Merle is unusual, because artists were coming here to paint these images both before and after the peak of the last Ice Age, generations of them returning to the cave as the world outside froze over.
This is a very beautiful image and it uses the contours of the rock.
The horse's back sort of curves along a bulge in the rock and there's an echo of the horse's head on this right side there.
And it's obviously a very stylised horse as well.
And I love the way those spots carry on into the background, as though the horse is sort of camouflaged against the rock.
And there's a hand placed against the rock just above the horse's back.
I mean, that is amazing, isn't it? That's an Ice Age hand.
(SpUTTERING) Michel Lorblanchet has devoted his life to studying the art found in caves like Pech Merle.
(SpUTTERING) I think I naively imagined that you just take a mouthful of charcoal, a bit of water and just spit it at the wall and that'd be it.
But of course all that would happen would be that the mess would run down the wall and obscure the stencil that you were trying to do.
So you have to do it like this, using an almost dry mouth, and just building it up very gradually with a fine spray.
Michel Lorblanchet did a recreation of the horses at pech Merle using this technique.
It took him a whole week.
-Is it finished? -Yes -It's finished.
-Yes.
That's right.
ROBERTS: But what drove these people, struggling just to survive, to paint? The vast majority of these images seem to be animals, there don't seem to be many representations of humans.
No, that's true, they are mainly animal figures.
And for them, of course, animals were not only game, but also spirits, symbolic, so the animal figures are, in fact, symbolic figures.
And going into pech Merle, I mean, it's such a beautiful cave with all the stalactites hanging down and it does feel as though it was, I don't know, almost a temple.
Yes, that's right, this is a natural temple, if you like.
They are sacred sites.
They are not painting just for fun.
By painting a cave and having a sanctuary, it is a way for them to say, ''Here is our sacred place.
'' The painted cave is symbolic of the whole tribe.
ROBERTS: Being bound together in this way may have helped our ancestors survive the kind of climate change that only haunts our imaginations today.
(WIND BLOWING) Nearly two thirds of modern Europeans can trace their lineages back to ancestors who held on in those southern refuges.
It would be more than 1 00 generations before the world would begin to warm again.
And it may have been around this time that something happened which would stamp a new identity on the Europeans.
Since the birth of our species in Africa, our ancestors' skin had almost certainly been dark, protection against the tropical sun.
But why in Europe did it turn from brown to white? the surprising answer may lie with a single vitamin.
Vitamin D.
A lack of vitamin D may not sound particularly significant, but it can be life-threatening.
It can wreak havoc with a growing skeleton, causing bones to grow bent and misshapen.
These are all skeletons of patients with rickets, and you can see how it's affected the bones.
These leg bones here are all curved, making walking difficult.
And the chest is deformed, so breathing would be problematic as well.
And not only that, rickets can affect your chance of having children.
This is the pelvis of a woman who had rickets.
And you can see the way that the pelvic bones have collapsed together.
You just could not get a baby's head through this space.
It would've been impossible for her to give birth naturally.
So vitamin D is vital and we make it in our skin in the presence of sunlight.
But dark skin blocks out the sun, and in Europe, with its weaker sunlight, this could've been a problem.
Our ancestors may have struggled to make enough vitamin D.
So this could be why Europeans turned white.
But this change in skin colour was nothing compared with the massive upheaval approaching.
I'm heading back to turkey, because a recent discovery here shows that after the Ice Age, our ancestors abandoned their way of life, one they had followed since our species first appeared in Africa.
And what happened here still defines our world today.
this final stage of my European journey leads to a remote hillside in the far south of the country.
This is Gobekli Tepe, an extraordinary site that I'm just incredibly excited to look at.
Hi.
Alice.
-Are you Klaus Schmidt? -Nice to meet you.
Hello.
I'm Alice Roberts.
(LAuGHS) I heard from your visit.
Yeah.
Nice to meet you here in Gobekli Tepe.
I'm so excited about coming here.
It's such an amazing discovery you've made.
It's amazing, that's true, that's very true.
-You seem very excited.
-I just this season we have a lot of new findings.
-So it's worth to have a look.
-Oh, come on then, let's have a look.
ROBERTS: Gobekli tepe is 12,000 years old, over twice as old as the pyramids.
Already, Klaus has found dozens of standing stones, each one carved with mysterious symbols.
these stone circles are possibly the oldest purpose-built temples in the world.
KLAuS: Sometimes, there are arms and hands and fingers depicted.
So it's very clear that the T part is a human head in profile and the shaft of the pillar is the human body.
Here we have an example of the depiction of an arm which is going down here, and the fingers.
The hand and the fingers are not excavated yet, but it's clear they will appear when we continue to work here.
So we've got a circle of smaller T-shaped pillars and then two enormous ones in the centre.
It's always the same, there are two in the centre which are very big and free-standing, surrounded by smaller but similar ones.
And we understand it as a meeting, as a gathering of these beings made of stone.
Here now, we have the most interesting reliefs.
ROBERTS: Oh, wow.
KLAuS: Ibis, snake and a vulture.
It's a story illustrated by these animals, and this story is not a peaceful one.
A scorpion, snake, and so on.
Our model for the function of all this installation is they have been made for burial reasons.
To bring the dead bodies to open places and the vultures are eating the flesh and other birds.
So you think this might have been a site for these sky burials? -KLAuS: Yes, yes -Where people are left out in the open to be picked clean by vultures.
-KLAuS: Yes -And these are the vultures? KLAuS: (LAuGHS) These are the vultures, yeah.
ROBERTS: It almost looks like hieroglyphics.
Maybe pre-hieroglyphic messages or Stone Age hieroglyphics.
ROBERTS: Klaus is anxious to show me his most spectacular discovery.
KLAuS: And here we found (ROBERTS EXCLAIMS) this nice animal.
This is incredibly beautiful, I mean, this is sculpture.
-It's not just a relief, is it? -Yeah, yeah, sure.
ROBERTS: It's wonderful.
KLAuS: Yes, clearly, it's a masterpiece of work.
ROBERTS: It makes you rethink the Stone Age, doesn't it? I mean, it You tend to think of hunter-gatherers as being, I don't know, fairly crude in some ways, and not necessarily capable of producing artefacts that beautiful.
It's clear that these societies had specialists for stone-working, at least.
So, really, people who didn't do anything else, as to produce sculptures and pillars and reliefs from stone.
These are such exciting finds, aren't they? KLAuS: Yeah.
ROBERTS: this place suggests a society that could support specialist craftsmen and perhaps even a priesthood.
It was the beginning of a totally new way of life.
KLAuS: These are sites of settled hunters.
So it was a high culture of hunters here, which was nearly exploding in the tenth millennium, so it's still a hunter-gatherer society in its structures, and its buildings, its monuments.
ROBERTS: But there was another very important difference between these hunter-gatherers and any of their predecessors.
they were settling down, abandoning their nomadic lifestyle.
A huge shift, which would help spark a Europe-wide revolution.
And the evidence for this can be found growing in the surrounding fields.
Locked inside this single stalk of wheat is a story of how the world was transformed.
Geneticists have analysed DNA from domesticated wheat varieties from across the world, and the staggering thing is they can all be traced back to grasses which originally grew in this area.
Which means that farming as we know it in Europe was born around here.
communities settled down and populations expanded.
this could've driven the need to start producing food.
And as farming spread, the landscape was transformed.
Forests were cleared and villages, then towns, then cities would grow, founded by descendants of the small groups of pioneers who first entered Europe around 45,000 years ago.
those early Europeans were people just like you and me.
But it is humbling when you see the challenges they faced.
they overcame the competition from Neanderthals and made it through the Ice Age.
In fact, at the time it wasn't at all inevitable that my ancestors, maybe yours, would've even survived.
And it makes me wonder what would happen if today's Europeans were faced by such a harsh changing climate.
But having taken this long view, we've seen how ingenious and adaptable we are as a species.
And it gives me hope that we will be able to survive the changes of millennia to come.