字幕表 動画を再生する 英語字幕をプリント For two years, a team of top scientists have been secretly studying a unique fossil. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all text books for the next 100 years. They believe it could be one of our earliest primate ancestors. Well, it's really a kind of Rosetta Stone because it ties together parts we haven't been able to associate before. Have they found our oldest, complete, primate ancestor? The fossil has more information in it then in any fossil I've ever seen. Their research has stunned the world. In the moment when the results of our investigations will be published, this will be just like an asteroid hitting the earth. 47 million years ago the dinosaurs were already long extinct. It's the time when the blueprints for modern mammals were being established. Dense, tropical rainforests cover the earth. They're home to small primates. Among them is an ancestor to us all. For almost 200 years, scientists have searched for links to our prehistoric past. The search has concentrated in East Africa, known as the cradle of mankind. Here in the 1970s, they found the link between apes and man. It offered conclusive proof that we started walking upright 3.2 million years ago. A human ancestor, a female, Lucy. Then in 1984, the remains of a boy were found. Material evidence that 1.5 million years ago, humans had already lost their hair and taken their first steps onto the open savannah. Scientists have long hoped that the earth might eventually yield an even more ancient fossil that links apes, man and all the other primates to the earliest mammals on earth. This could be it. A fossil so ancient it could shine a light deeper into our history than ever before. And so detailed it could help science reveal the origins of every person on the planet. This fossil is so complete. Everything's there. It's unheard of in the primate fossil record at all. You have to get to human burial to see something that's this complete. This is really, really the most complete fossil primate ever. World-renowned fossil expert Dr Jorn Hurum of Oslo University has spent his life scouring the earth for important fossils. But the most incredible specimen of them all, the one that would change his life, took him totally by surprise. It was in December 2006 at the annual Hamburg Fossil Fair. Here the tables were laden with beautiful examples of fossils and minerals to catch the public eye. But Jorn didn't expect to find something for his museum on a stall. The best specimens are never shown on a show. They are always what we call "under the table". So you need to know the dealers to be shown the really, really, really good things. The dealer, Thomas Perner, promised an extraordinary find. When the dealer told me in the middle of the day at a mineral show in Hamburg that I should join him for a drink because he wanted to show me something, I knew that it was something special. Then he showed me some photographs and I was completely stunned. And I didn't sleep for two nights after that, because I knew that what I'd seen, it was probably the most beautiful fossil I was ever going to see in my whole life. Jorn made a home video of the very first moment he came face to face with the fossil. THEY LAUGH Oh! This is the best fossil and rarest fossil worldwide. Wow! Oh! It's beautiful. It's beautiful. Complete foot and two complete hands. Yeah. OK. Wow! Yes! Jorn believed he had stumbled across a 47-million-year-old treasure - the perfectly preserved skeleton of a small creature, more complete than he could ever hope for. But his joy may be short-lived. International fossil dealing is a cut-throat business. Jorn must act swiftly if he wants to save it for science. The thing about important fossils, there's a big black market and there's a lot of private collectors, like with art and other things. So a lot of important specimens are still locked in the basement of some rich guy or something like that. So it needs to be in a public museum to be studied. The asking price is over 1 million. Jorn's got to be certain it's a genuine fossil and not a forgery. He has it scientifically examined. You can fake an outer surface of bone that looks really real, but you cannot fake the inner structure of a bone. It's impossible. So getting an X-ray, you can see the inside of the bone. You can see actually the bone marrow inside. We know that it's 100% a real fossil. There is no doubt at all. The X-rays prove this fossil is genuine. The necessary funds were secured and Jorn shipped it home. In Norway's capital city, Oslo, in his museum lab, Jorn finally gets to properly investigate his new treasure. This is so complete that you cannot, even in your dreams, wish for something being 47 million years old and this complete. Usually, we only find teeth, broken parts of jaws and small bones from the middle foot, maybe some toes and so on. Just single, small bones from these animals this long ago. Astonishingly, this fossil is not just bone. Its level of preservation is extraordinary. Here's an imprint of the bacteria that grew on the fur. So actually we can see how much fur was there. You cannot see the muscles or anything like that, but you can see an outline of the body that's bigger than just a skeleton. You can actually see where the fur covered the animal and how thick the fur was. This unique fossil is so detailed that it immediately reveals important information to Jorn. The first thing I recognised was the big toe standing up like this, 90 degrees to the rest of the foot. And if you look very careful, to both the fingers and the toes, you can see that there were nails and not claws. This is a primate, just from seeing that image of that foot. It was really a wake-up call for me. Apes, monkeys and us all belong to one particular group of mammals, the primates. And the common feature we all share is four fingers and an opposable thumb - the characteristic we share with this 47-million-year-old fossil. Could we be related? Looking at the hand, you can see that it's got five fingers, of course, and nails on all the fingers. But also the thumb is opposable like us, so it can grasp things, it can hold things the same way we do today. It's already there 47 million years ago. It's a proper hand to hold around things. To properly analyse the fossil, Jorn must share his secret. He handpicks a small team of experts, each a world leader in their discipline. I knew immediately that this fossil was too important. So I started to invite people in to make a dream team around this fossil, to make the first description really proper. If I would do it alone, I'm not an expert in primates, but there are some good people around the world and I invited the best ones to join me and they all said yes. Dr Holly Smith is a dental anthropologist. By studying the fossil's teeth, she will be able to determine what the creature ate, its age and how it compares to other primates. The fossil could be the ancestor of prosimians and apes and monkeys and the lineage leading up to man. Joining the team is Dr Jens Franzen, a renowned fossil expert who's been waiting for an opportunity such as this. This is by far the most complete fossil primate ever found on the world. And we have not only the complete skeleton, but we have also the complete soft body outline and we have the gut content. So what do you want more, ja? Hi! It's nice to see you. How was the flight? Professor Philip Gingerich is the next on board. He's spent his life searching for links between early and modern mammals. I suppose one of my initial thoughts was, "This is a big job. This will be a lot of work." Partly because there isn't anything else like it and so it really deserves to be compared carefully with all the various fragmentary fossils we have and also with the skeletons of the living ones. And you put all that together, that's a big work. They plan a long and thorough study. They must be certain of their conclusions before they reveal the fossil to the world. Until then, they will work in secret on their extraordinary treasure. As soon as they start their analysis, the fossil begins to come to life before their eyes. The pelvic region, of course, it's possible actually to tell the sex from this area. In this region, you will expect to see a baculum or not. All primates at that time possessed a penis bone, known as a baculum. We now know from looking at the specimen that there's no baculum present. So this is a girl, this is a small female that lived 47 million years ago. The investigation is gathering pace. The next question is where does she come from? And it's the way her delicate body has been preserved, and not her skeleton, that provides the answers. There's only one locality in the world where this transfer technique, that the fossils are put in this kind of polyester, that all the fossils are prepared like this. This is the only place. All the major primate fossil finds until now have been made in Africa. But this one has been prepared using resin, a technique used, not in Africa, but in Germany. The fossil was found here, in a place known as the Messel Pit. There is nowhere in the world like it. It's an ancient crater filled with an unrivalled collection of fossils, all dating from the Eocene Period, 47 million years ago. It's like a peek-hole into a whole community, a whole ecosystem in the Eocene. That suddenly you see that everything you find usually as small pieces of things, you have complete in this one locality, one place in the world and that's something that palaeontologists really, really treasure. So this is like a holy grail for palaeontology. Dinosaurs were long extinct. The shales of Messel had already yielded fossil birds, reptiles and amphibians, complete with the impression of their feathers, scales and skin. The biggest ants ever known and beetles, still with their colour after millions of years. Preserved in incredible detail are bats, snakes and even a miniature horse the size of a small dog. The first glimpses of kinds of creatures that are alive today. The Eocene Period is really the critical stage for mammal evolution. It's when all the old-timers, they are still around and the newcomers are coming strongly into the field. We have the first horses, the first carnivores, the first bats, the first whales. All these new mammals are evolving in the Eocene and, of course, the primates, they are thriving. But which were our ancestors? Until now, no complete primate has ever been found in the Messel Pit, and even this specimen was almost lost forever. Fossil hunters have dug in the Messel Pit for generations, collecting and selling the specimens as works of art, just such a fossil hunter must have dug this primate from the shale. Who this was is still a mystery, but we do know they took her away, perfectly preserved her in resin and locked her away from view for 25 years. It's like having your unknown Rembrandt, your unknown Van Gogh, at home. You can see it every day. The rest of the world don't know about it. And it makes you kind of feel powerful I think to have something like that. Fortunately, now she's with Jorn, her secrets can be revealed to the world and the team in Oslo are starting to examine and describe her skeleton bone by bone. By why are fossils from the Messel Pit so well preserved? It's thanks to the formation of the Messel Pit 50 million years ago. Deep underground, molten rock, magma, forced its way upwards. Just below the surface, it meant a layer of ground water. Superheated steam generated incredible pressure. The rock was ripped apart. A series of massive explosions created a crater a mile wide. Inside its steep walls, an incredibly deep lake formed. It was probably at least 100m deep and the waters were still. When animals fell in, they drifted down and were soon covered by mud at the bottom. There was no oxygen and few bacteria to induce decay. Undisturbed for millions of years, the bodies, buried under tonnes of mud, were squashed flat. It is the Messel Pit's extraordinary geological history that allows Jorn to pinpoint exactly when this fossil lived. The start of this whole lake, where the fossil was found, that was a volcanic explosion, and parts of that volcanics that came out in the explosion, they are like time capsules. And it's possible to date the radioactive isotopes in such volcanic rocks very, very precisely. And this has been done for this volcanics and it's 47 million years. Despite the millions of years that have passed since these animals were alive, their bodies have been preserved in such detail that they give us a full picture of their world.