Station: [108] Neanderthals - Research History

In 1856 quarry workers in Neanderthal between Erkrath and Mettmann not far from Düsseldorf came across human bone fragments. It soon transpired that the bones belonged to prehistoric humans who were different to modern human beings.  After this discovery, this type of human was called Homo Neandertalensis or Neanderthal man.

 As of now we have just under 3000 pieces of bone and teeth from around 300 Neanderthal individuals. Most of them were found in France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Portugal. In 1997 and 2000 more excavations were conducted in Neanderthal, which exposed more bone fragments. New studies have revealed that they belonged to a 40 to 60-year-old man who was about 1,68 m in height and was buried 40,000 years ago in a small grotto in Neanderthal. 

From the 19th century onwards the Neanderthals inspired contemporaries’ imaginations. These pictures show scientists’ and artists’ visions of the Neanderthals. Everything is included, from ape-like monsters to noble savages, and there’s even a Neanderthal in a suit! 

The Max-Planck-Institute for evolutionary anthropology in Leipzig conducts dedicated research into the Neanderthals today. The glass Neanderthal, a highlight here in the museum, shows their unique physical characteristics.