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National Geographic Film Chronicles Highland Research

February 7, 2012

Watch Full Episode on PBS. See more from Cave People of the Himalaya.

Mark Aldenderfer, dean of UC Merced’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, is featured in a National Geographic documentary about his research into an ancient civilization in Nepal.

The hourlong film, “Cave People of the Himalaya,” debuted Feb. 15 on PBS. It follows Aldenderfer and world-renowned Mt. Everest climber Pete Athans as they explore the cave tombs in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal. The film will also focus on a previously unknown death ritual. 

“The stories of other cultures in other times is endlessly fascinating,” Aldenderfer said. “But beyond this, I hope that films such as this remind us of our common humanity and that the present time in which we live is composed of multiple stories, each of which is important in its own right.”

The research team is seeking to understand how lowland people adapted to live in the highlands thousands of years ago. The move requires biological changes for an individual to survive. Three genes are suspected to play a role in this adaption. 

Aldenderfer and other researchers will return to this region this summer to continue their research. He said they’re looking for mummies that are more than 3,000 years old.