Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey review – broken bones and giant leaps

August 27, 2019
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I was on the bus the other day when I realised that Ancestors was probably starting to get to me. I found myself thinking about haircuts. About hairstyles. Looking at all the different ways of dealing with hair that were evident around me. Why do we do this? I wondered. The fringe, the pony, the pompadour. Why do we do this with our fur?

Fur? Every now and then, just to freak myself out, I try to remember that I’m a great ape. I haven’t evolved from an ape, I don’t share a common ancestor with an ape, I am one. My hands are ape hands. My feet are ape feet. Making a sandwich, using a stapler, worrying about the season finale for Million Dollar Listing: NYC? All of these are ape behaviours. And now here’s Ancestors to remind me afresh.

Ancestors – its full name is Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, just in case you weren’t already thinking about the first act of 2001 quite enough – is an attempt, I think, to make a game of something like Yuval Harari’s book Sapiens. How did modern humans get going? Let’s see! Meet a group of hominids, living their lives millions of years ago. They’re out there deep in the wilds somewhere. Can you lead them on a journey across hundreds of generations and put them on the path towards becoming something like us? Can you take them from fur to the side-parting, to the meet-me-at-McDonalds?

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