Walking with Cavemen

Walking with Cavemen is a four-part television documentary series about human evolution produced by the BBC in the United Kingdom. It was originally released in April 2003. It was subsequently presented in the United States as a two-part series by the Discovery Channel and its affiliates. There was an accompanying book of the same title. The documentary was also published by BBC in 2004 as a two part documentary of 50 minutes each and was narrated by Andrew Sachs.[1]

Walking with Cavemen
StarringSuzanne Cave, Ruth Dawes, Peter Elliott, Caroline Noh, and Anthony Taylor
Narrated byRobert Winston in the UK, Alec Baldwin in North America
Theme music composerAlan Parker
Country of originUK
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes4
Executive producer(s)Richard Dale
Producer(s)Nick Green, Mark Hedgecoe, and Peter Oxley
Running time25 min.
Production company(s)BBC Natural History Unit
DistributorBBC Worldwide
Original networkBBC and Discovery Channel
First shown in1 April 2003
Related showsThe Walking with... series
External links

Like previous Walking with... documentaries, Walking with Cavemen is produced in the style of a nature documentary, featuring a voice-over narrator (Robert Winston in the British release, Alec Baldwin in the North American release) who describes the recreations of the prehistoric past as if they were real. As with the predecessors, this approach necessitated the presentation of speculation as if it were fact, and some of the statements made about the behaviour of the creatures are more open to question than the documentary may indicate. The style is different in UK and US versions, as Robert Winston travels through time to the location of drama taking place, while Alec Baldwin remains ever in the present day in a lit room with skulls representative of ancestral hominid species highlighted in each drama.

Each segment takes the form of a short drama featuring a group of the particular hominid in question going about their daily lives (the search for food, protecting territory, and caring for the sick and injured). The intent is to get the human viewer to feel for the creatures being examined, almost to imagine being one of them (a trait that the documentary links to the modern human brain).


The documentary was not produced by the same team as the award-winning Walking with... documentary series, but a completely different one. The original series' director, Tim Haines, was not involved, nor Jasper James or the original production company Impossible Pictures, meaning Walking with Cavemen is technically a spin-off of the original series.

In the previous Walking with... documentaries, extinct animals were recreated with CGI and animatronics. For Walking with Cavemen, a slightly different approach was taken. While most of the animals depicted were still computer generated or animatronic, the human ancestors were portrayed by actors wearing makeup and prosthetics, giving them a more realistic look and permitting the actors to give the creatures a humanistic quality.


No. Title Time Hominids Location
1"First Ancestors"3.2 myaAustralopithecus afarensisEthiopia

In the first episode, we see Australopithecus afarensis, and focus on their evolved bipedality due to climate change that started in the ocean. The story follows the famous Lucy and her relatives, as they first develop a leadership conflict following the death of the alpha male due to a crocodile attack, and then are attacked by a rival troop. The attack ends with the death of Lucy herself, and her eldest daughter caring for Lucy's now-orphaned baby sibling, as a sign of the developing humanity in these "apemen".

Other Species: Ancylotherium · Deinotherium · Verreaux's Eagle (unnamed identified as eagle) · Nile Crocodile · Zebra Finch (unnamed)

 · Basilosaurus
2"Blood Brothers"2 myaParanthropus boisei, Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensisEast Africa

The second episode leaps forward to a time when Paranthropus boisei, Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis co-exist. H. habilis is depicted as an intelligent omnivore that is more adaptable than the herbivorous P. boisei. The two species are contrasted, with H. habilis being "a jack of all trades", while P. boisei are "a master of one" - i.e. they are specialized herbivores while H. habilis are generalized omnivores. Consequently, though P. boisei are able to eat termites, tall grasses and hard acacia pods in difficult times, they will not be able to survive in the future, when at the beginning of the next Ice Age the climate will change, and these plants will be gone for good. H. habilis, on the contrary, have become smart by eating fresh carrion and bone marrow among other things, and evolving a basic social behaviour, which is more firm than that of P. boisei, will continue to survive, until it evolves into Homo ergaster, seen in the next episode, who has developed these traits to a greater extent.

The episode also briefly shows the H. rudolfensis, remarking that although they are taller, they are very similar to the H. habilis.

Other Species: Dinofelis · Deinotherium · Ancylotherium · Lion · Common Eland (unnamed) · Impala · Bees · Vultures · Termites
3"Savage Family"1.5 mya–500,000 yaHomo ergaster, Homo erectusKenya, China

In the third episode, Homo ergaster is depicted as the first creature to master the art of tracking. This was made possible because their diet has grown increasingly more carnivorous, and the nutrients in meat made them even smarter than H. habilis of the previous episode. They also begin to form into tribal societies, with genuine bonds between their men and women, though violence is still occurring. As H. ergaster no longer use their arms to walk or climb trees, the muscles of their chests enable them to issue particular sounds, a primitive language.

The episode later shows H. ergaster spreading into Asia, becoming Homo erectus and encountering the enormous herbivorous ape Gigantopithecus, "the original King Kong".

However, for the next million years, H. ergaster is still very much an animal, following its instincts, but then, they are shown harnessing fire and beginning to break away from their direct dependence on their environment.

Other Species: Blue Wildebeest · African Bush Elephant · Swallow · Tarantula · Ants · Giraffe · Baboon · Gigantopithecus
4"The Survivors"400,000 ya–30,000 yaHomo heidelbergensis, Neanderthal, Homo sapiensEurope, Africa

The fourth episode first shows Homo heidelbergensis in Britain. H. heidelbergensis is depicted as intelligent and sensitive but lacking in the ability to comprehend an afterlife, or anything that isn't in the "here and now".

Next, the episode shows a clan of Homo neanderthalensis, how they lived and hunted, including the mighty mammoth during the last ice age. Finally in Africa we see modern Homo sapiens, who had to become imaginative and inventive to survive a long drought and finally glimpse the cave painters of Europe, who had "evolved" the idea of the afterlife and the supernatural, and are now ready to start human history as it is now known, and to drive the Neanderthals to extinction.

Other Species: Megaloceros · Mountain Hare · Woolly Mammoth · Beetle · Snake

See also


  1. Klossner, Michael (22 December 2005). Prehistoric Humans in Film and Television: 581 Dramas, Comedies and Documentaries, 1905–2004. McFarland. p. 208. ISBN 9781476609140.

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