Film-makers following the tracks of Denisova with the Papuan Past Project team

Film director Guy Beauché in front of handstencils in Kundumbu rockshelter (Photo: F.-X. Ricaut).

The research activities of the Papuan Past Project have gained interest beyond the scientific community, resulting in the project participating in a documentary film. One of the recent publications from the project, on the possible Denisova-Modern Humans admixture in New Guinea, has led the production house Galaxies/Scienti-Film to support a documentary on the exciting Denisova topic. The Papuan Past Project is the only research project to combine genetic and archaeological investigations, so an interesting project to cover in the film. A team composed of the film director Guy Beauché and sound engineer Christophe Joly joined the team from the 16th of June to the 2nd of July 2019. They filmed in the two regions that were the focus of the 2019 fieldwork: the Sepik and Highland regions. Footage from these locations will be complemented with footage from the Himalayas and Russia (Denisova cave) and research laboratories in Europe (e.g. France: University of Toulouse for the human genetic and National Museum of Natural History for the archaeological questions).

F.-X. Ricaut and H. Forestier discuting at Manim rock shelter in front of the camera (Photo: S. Plutniak).

This unusual collaboration led to interesting exchanges and it slightly impacted the course of our scientific activities. The daily schedule was adapted to the pace of the filming. Often we had to re-act discussions, gestures or sequence of actions, for example when crossing the river walking on timber. The scientific team also had to wear small microphones which frequently fell-off due to the tropical weather. More generally, the weight and number of boxes of audio and video equipment slowed down and complicated the field logistics, requiring an additional generator to access electric power. Furthermore, this technical equipment changed our relationship with the local population, notably the fascination provoked by the use of a drone.

Awim village: the TV crew is filming the “singsing” dancers (Photo: F.-X. Ricaut).

The release of the documentary is scheduled for 2020 on prime time broadcast on France 5 (a French TV channel). It will significantly contribute to the popularisation of research in prehistoric archaeology and human evolution undertaken by the Papuan Past Project.

The flight of the drone araising enthousiasm and fascination at Awim village (Photo: S. Plutniak).
C. Joly controlling the drone along the Arafundi river, near Imboin village (Photo: F.-X. Ricaut).

Redaction: Ricaut & Plutniak.
English correction: R. Coles.
Publishing and photo editing: Plutniak.