Station: [109] Glass Neanderthal

The glass Neanderthal is an exciting installation and we’d like to tell you how it was made. The deciding factor are the light points on the body that show you which of the Neanderthal’s physical characteristics are different to ours. The model for this installation was a reconstructed Neanderthal skeleton made by Bone Clones in New York. This skeleton was 3D-scanned bone by bone at the Saxony State Office for Archaeology and these scans were used to create identical bone forms in a special plastic that was fitted with cables and light points. The electronics are well hidden in the organs that complete the finished skeleton. Despite this, we know virtually nothing about the Neanderthal’s outward appearance. The glass casing was based on the scan of a Neanderthal figure from the Neanderthal museum in Mettmann.

Yet it is in the outward appearance that we first see the differences between the typical Neanderthal and modern humans. The typical Neanderthal lived around 100,000 years ago, and early forms that developed from the Heidelberg Human are up to 200,000 years older. Exposure to the extreme climatic fluctuation of the Ice Age led to the appearance of characteristics that enabled the Neanderthals to survive in tough environmental conditions.

These are, among others, the robust physical build of the body and shorter limbs. The classic Neanderthal is smaller and more muscular than we are today and has an A-shaped rib cage. The smaller amount of body surface meant less warmth was lost, which prevented them getting cold as quickly as we do. The shape of the face and skull are also a result of adaptation to harsh surroundings. With protruding eyebrows the Neanderthals were better protected from the low-lying sun and large nasal cavities warmed the cold air they inhaled for longer. 

Scientists are now able to research the genetic make-up of living beings and fossilized bones can also be used for this process. You can find out how this influences our knowledge of Neanderthals in the gene area of our exhibition.