Mammoths in Manhattan; A New BBC2 Series Goes Back to the Ice Age, When Dinosaurs Ruled and Man Was the New Kid on the Block, Reports JULIE MacCASKILL

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), September 28, 2002 | Go to article overview

Mammoths in Manhattan; A New BBC2 Series Goes Back to the Ice Age, When Dinosaurs Ruled and Man Was the New Kid on the Block, Reports JULIE MacCASKILL


FORGET about designer dresses, personal groomers and luxury living, to make it big in North America in prehistoric times ferocious tusks, terrifying teeth and shaggy coats were the must- have accessories for survival.

While the bold and the beautiful are the face of the US today, 14,000 years ago woolly mammoths were among the beasts which ruled supreme.

Long before skyscrapers changed the Manhattan skyline and theme parks were big news in Florida, America was dominated by a different kind of attraction altogether - Ice Age beasts of all shapes and sizes.

Natural history series Wild New World takes viewers back in time to a land where mammoths ruled the Hollywood Hills and man was but a newcomer.

"It's incredible to think that just a few hundred generations ago, people met these almost mythical animals," says series producer Miles Barton.

Using the latest scientific research, filming techniques and computer generated imagery, the series promises to be a fascinating journey back in time to the end of the last Ice Age.

Each week, the programme moves across North America, visiting prehistoric regions which evolved into sprawling US cities and states.

Among the discoveries unveiled, Denver airport is situated on the site of what was once a vast grazing ground for wildlife, while the sunshine state of Florida was inhabited by giant sloths and armoured glyptodonts.

"Our aim is to illustrate through film and computer imagery how the landscape would have appeared to the first human settlers," explains Miles.

"We look at each individual city and dissolve it back to the Ice Age, when mammoths wandered the land. We've used the clues we have found today to unlock the past."

Through merging the past and present, the series creates a vivid picture of what the landscape would have been like, which animals existed and how they would have lived and died.

In much the same way as Walking With Dinosaurs gave viewers a gateway to the past, Miles is confident Wild New World will bring history to life.

He says: "Being able to see a beast which is extinct brought to life on screen is much more interesting than looking at a skeleton in a museum."

From the icy wastes of Alaska to the tropical swamps of Florida, North America as we know it today is a diverse landscape teaming with wildlife.

When humans took their first footsteps into this continent 14,000 years ago, they encountered many weird and wonderful creatures - from six- tonne woolly mammoths to lumbering sloths and giant bears.

"This was a land thriving with a host of beasts," says Miles. "Vast changes took place in a relatively short space of time, evolutionary speaking."

Apart from long-extinct animals, like mammoths and glyptodonts, there were also some familiar faces which survived the test of time - the muskoxen, cougar and bison.

Along with the BBC's MediArc team, Miles has brought extinct creatures back to life, animating them alongside modern- day animals against a prehistoric backdrop. He is certain the computer-generated images will captivate and educate at the same time.

"The interaction between the animated animals and the living ones we filmed is outstanding," he says. "We have carefully taken vital clues from the past to build up a picture of what life would have been like."

Although the landscape has changed, crucial clues to the past can be found. …

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