Socialist Worker

Ice Age Giants

by Sarah Ensor
Issue No. 2353

Smilodon

Smilodon


The enormous mammals that thrived in the last ice age, which began 80,000 years ago, are entertainingly explored in this three-part documentary series. 

It uses some fun CGI effects and explains the science of the climate, the animals and the first modern humans who used them to survive.

It is also full of experts who clearly love their job.

It begins in the area around California 40,000 years ago. 

Presenter professor Alice Roberts goes to Los Angeles, “a portal to a lost world”. Once it was the territory of smilodons—popularly known as sabre-tooth tigers.  

We know about them because many bones and even whole skeletons have been found in tarpits and fields. Astonishingly dung heaps preserved in the dry air have also been found in caves.

One mystery is how smilodons used their sabre teeth. They were so long and thin that they could snap when stuck in the sinews of a struggling animal. 

They shared the land with ground sloths the size of grizzly bears with seven inch claws and glyptodons, armadillos the size of a small car. 

As the ice sheets spread they pushed warm winds south and the land exploded with life.

For many of the huge mammals that lived in the south food was so plentiful they wouldn’t necessarily have died out if not for humans and their tools.

Another episode looks at the people who survived the climate in the north 20,000 years ago. They used mammoths and woolly rhinoceros as food, fuel and even to build the first ever houses.

Ice Age Giants, BBC Two, Sunday 19 May, 8pm

 


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Tue 14 May 2013, 18:13 BST
Issue No. 2353
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