Saturday, 14 March 2009

Musee de l'Homme, Paris

The Musee de l'Homme disappointed me as an unremarkable display of early hominin skeletons, crania, and material culture (stone tools and early art).  The display is small, poorly displayed, and generally unmemorable.  However, when we were there last week, they had a temporary display of crania and stone tools from  Atapuerca, in Northern Spain (NB: the link is to an exhibit at a different museum, not the one at Musee de l'Homme).  Atapuerca is a cluster of early hominin sites with dates between 1 million and 400,000 years before present.  An astounding quantity of hominin remains have been found at a cave beneath the Atapuerca hillside (at the Sima de los Huesos- literally "pit of bones").  The species seems to be a regional H. heidelbergensis species currently being called H. antecessor by palaeoanthropologists in the know.  Although the identification of this population as a unique species is controversial and debated, this group of sites is some of the earliest evidence we have of hominin occupation of Europe, so it's an exceptional find.

The exhibition itself was well-displayed and organised, with lots of accompanying information in both English and French.  Remarkably, the actual crania were on display, along with some of the handaxes found at the sites.  I loved it, and my family even tolerated it, so couldn't have been a total bore to non-archaeologists.  If you're in the area and have 45 minutes to kill, it's worth the admission fee (about 5 Euros).  

My advice: skip the permanent collections and go straight to the Atapuerca exhibition.  Take the Metro to Trocadero and then follow the signs from there. Don't miss the fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower!

1 comment:

eMark said...

As a non-archaeologist, I loved the Atapuerca exhibit. Highly recommended as part of a visit to view to Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero.