Some unusual exhibits at the Natural History Museum, London

Of course the NHM’s new Human Evolution gallery has replicas of all the iconic hominins: Nutcracker Man, Taung Child, Lucy, Turkana Boy, K. platyops, Toumai… Here I collect a list of specimens and other items that -I’m sure you will agree- are not usually found in other museums:

1) Skull 5 from Dmanisi (Georgia)

Skull 5 (D4500 cranium & D2600 mandible) is one of the most complete skulls of a Pleistocene Homo specimens. Its small brain volume (550 cc) is tiny in comparison to the other Homo erectus skulls from Dmanisi, which is another feature of the high variation in morphology of all the specimens in that site. Dated to c. 1.77 Ma.


Skull 5 Dmanisi at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

2) Zhoukoudian skull XI: a female Homo erectus 

This fossil was dated to c. 600 Ka and the original is lost. Thought to be a female. The hominin fossils and stone artefacts from this site suggest that Homo erectus lived as hunter-gatherers and that meat formed a key part of their diet.


Zhoukoudian skull XI at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

3) The Clacton spear

Made of yew, this spear point is the oldest preserved wooden spear in the world (c. 420 Ka). Its owner probably have used this as a lethal weapon, stabbing prey at close range to generate enough force to pierce the animal’s skin.


Clacton spear at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

4) The most easterly example of Homo heidelbergensis?

This partial skullcap is one of the only early human fossils found on the Indian sub-continent. It has c. 300 Ka. and was found by the Narmada River.


Skullcap from Narmada River at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

5) Two robust archaic tibias

Tibia from Kabwe, Zambia (left). Its length indicates an adaptation to the subtropical environment of Zambia 300 KYA, as it provides a larger skin surface though which to help cool the body. Assigned to Homo heidelbergensis.

Tibia from Boxgrove, England (right). This shinbone has been chewed at each end by an ancient carnivore, but scientists can still decipher it belonged to someone large and robust, about 1.8 m tall and probably male.  Intense physical activities such as hunting large animals would have encouraged the growth of a stronger, tougher build in Homo heidelbergensis, in response to the stress placed on bones.


Two robust archaic tibias at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

6) Qafzeh 11: a teenager modern human from 90-120 Ka.

This specimen was 13 years old and was placed in a burial site with red deer antlers placed on the body. Dated to 90-120 Ka.


Qafzeh 11 at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

7) The Monte Circeo Neandertal

This skull was found inside Grotta Guattari, in the same layer of sediment as many hyena coprolites. Signs of fracture around its right eyebrow and cheekbone and other tooth marks suggest hyenas scavenged this individual soon after death. Dated to c. 50 Ka.


Monte Circeo Neandertal at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

8) Two Neandertals from Gibraltar

Forbes’ Quarry skull is a female discovered in 1848. It is dated to c. 50 Ka and museum scientists are working with dating labs to accurately calculate its age.

Devil’s Tower was a 4-year old child according to the growth lines on the teeth. The front incisor is erupting. Dated to c. 50 Ka.


Two Neandertals from Gibraltar at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

9) Early evidences of cannibalism

Homo sapiens, Gough’s Cave, Somerset, England. 14,7 Ka (left). Cut marks and dents reveal that this skull was thoroughly cleaned of any soft tissues shortly after death. After removing the bones of the face and the base of the skull, it was painstakingly shaped into a cup.

Homo sapiens, Gough’s Cave, Somerset, England. 14,7 Ka (right). There are cut marks on the upper jaw, where flesh was removed. It belonged to a teenager.


Two early evidences of cannibalism at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

10) The oldest nearly complete modern human ever found in Britain

The ‘Cheddar Man’ is dated to c. 10 Ka. He was 1,66 m tall. The hole in his forehead was the site of an infection, which may have killed him.


Cheddar Man at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

And the final treasures…

The MH1 skeleton of Australopithecus sediba (L) & the ARA-VP-6/500 skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus (R)


Au. sediba & A. ramidus at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

The DH1 skull of Homo naledi!


Homo naledi DH1 at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

And the original Kabwe-1 Homo rhodesiensis skull (left):


Kabwe-1 at NHM. Photo: Roberto Sáez

Un pensamiento en “Some unusual exhibits at the Natural History Museum, London

  1. FINALLY SOLVED : The human evolution (30 hominins / 7 million years ago ) must consider the evolution of intelligence, but I have found only «the evolution of emotions». These three processes intersect at one point – baby / human infant that is incapable for independent survival for many years. That is not an evolutionary mistake, on the contrary, that is the key element. By observing his mother’s behavior, a process called MSP/multi self-projection passively occurs in baby’s brain when child perceives guardians body as his own. That way infant’s CNS immediately learns the shortest way to get something done which enables the creation of many more similar thinking processes till the moment when a minimal number of thinking processes ( Adam’s number ) are required in order to effect of self-consciousness arise.
    To connect all this with a huge number of scientific data (Denisovans, Homo naledi, Scientific Adam, Mitochondrial Eve, autism, speech, pleasure in the presence of fire, dreams…) required membership in the Mensa organization… For your consideration, the biggest picture (the framework) for all scientific data is here…

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