The First Eden: The Mediterranean World and Man is a BBC documentary series written and presented by David Attenborough, first transmitted in the United Kingdom from 8 March 1987.
It comprises four programmes, each of 55 minutes' duration, which describe man's relationship with the natural habitats of the Mediterranean, and is a glorious portrait of the landscape, wildlife and plants of the Mediterranean. From the earliest human settlements to the cities of today, from the forests of the North African shore and the Middle East to Southern Europe, this series tells the dramatic story of man and nature at work.
The series was produced by Andrew Neal, in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and WQED Pittsburgh. The music was composed and conducted by Carl Davis.
Attenborough undertook the project in between his 'Life' series The Living Planet (1984) and The Trials of Life (1990)
Attenborough opens the series at the Dead Sea, where the hot climate and intense evaporation mimic conditions that were replicated on a much larger scale when the newly-formed Mediterranean basin dried out. Around 5.5 million years ago, the Atlantic flooded the basin, allowing marine life to recolonise the new sea. Mountains became islands: some of them volcanic, others formed of limestone. Common species marooned on these islands evolved into new varieties. In a Maltese cave, Attenborough discovers fossil teeth from dwarf elephants. Most are only known from fossils, but one species, the Mallorcan midwife toad, has recently been discovered. Attenborough abseils down to a secluded pool to find it. In Europe, blooming wildflowers signal the arrival of spring. This triggers the emergence of insects, and in turn, the arrival of insectivorous birds such as rollers and bee-eaters. After the Mediterranean Sea formed, the climate continued to warm, forcing many birds to extend their migration routes between Europe and Africa. Exotic arrivals include spoonbills, white storks and flamingos. Reptiles are most active during the hot summers. Attenborough catches a Montpellier snake and describes its hunting behaviour. Some creatures, including chameleons, crested porcupines and fruit bats have colonised Europe from Africa. Rock hyraxes, which have reached Israel, may soon join them. The arrival of humans, 28,000 years ago, is known from flint tools and rock etchings found in Spanish caves. Later cliff paintings demonstrated that Mediterranean man was still living in hunter-gatherer societies 10,000 years ago, but that would soon change.