As the discovery of early human beings above all in the east Africa proves, the cradle of humanity is in Africa. Over longer periods of time some of the hominids spread across Asia and Europe and finally throughout the whole world. You can see this clearly on the animated globe with integrated timeline. Today only one human form remains: Homo Sapiens, which populates all parts of the world. Differences in appearance such as skin colour and anatomy are the result of adaptation to different environmental conditions.
The history of the development of a human being is not linear. It separated from the hominids evolutionary line about 7 million years ago. If you have a look at the skull wall you will see a type of ancestral chart that shows you the skull shapes of the earliest hominids through to that of homo sapiens. All that time ago Charles Darwin recognised that the ancestral chart of the human being was not a target-orientated development, but more like the form of coral, with lots of dead arms. You’ll find a profile of every skull at the media station.
On the four columns in the middle of the room are skulls of European human forms: Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Homo erectus is the oldest. Around 1.9 million years ago he left the African continent for the first time. He knew how to work with fire and could produce various stone tools.
Homo heidelbergensis was named after the site of discovery in Heidelberg and he can be traced back to what is known as the „Rhodesian Human“, who broke out of Africa 600,000 years ago. Homo heidelbergensis is thought to be an ancestor of the Neanderthals.
According to our discoveries relating to the African line, homo sapiens, the modern human being, developed from Homo heidelbergensis. The earliest trace of homo sapiens is a 140,000-year-old skull, found in Ethiopia. Homo sapiens migrated to Europe 40,000 years ago.
The Neanderthals pillar is separate from the others, because the Neanderthals were not Africans! This is the only human form to have developed in Europe. Their stocky, strong build was well adapted to glacial-period conditions. Before the Neanderthals died out 30,000 years ago, they had to share their habitat with the modern human being for a certain amount of time.
A particular highlight in this part of the exhibition is the virtual reconstruction of the skull of the Steinheimerin, or Steinheim lady, that we talk about in more detail in the following supplementary text.