Museum Musing: One Million Years of the Human Story
Last week humble old bloodyhellbrennan was invited to the Natural History Museum for a private breakfast viewing of their new exhibition, ‘Britain- One Million Years of the Human Story‘. The big South Ken Museums still all remain stubbornly unbudging in my list of favourite places in London. Stepping inside this beauty of a building one wet Friday morning before it was open to the public felt like such a privilege. I paused in the empty first gallery, gazing up at the colossal diplodocus skeleton that greets all the visitors to the museum- just me and him chilling in this quiet room. That was a casual way to start my day.
After a light breakfast of delicious pastries and strong coffee on tap, we were given a guided tour round this new exhibition. To say it’s pretty cool is to say the very least. The exhibition looks at the evolution and development of the human being, spanning over 40,000 years. This is literally the story of us.
Chris Stringer and his top team have really brought this story to life in this exhibition. Each gallery is carefully curated to create a specific atmosphere to help charter our evolutionary tale. Because, man is this stuff EPIC. This story involves ice caps, desolate vegetation, fighting vicious predators and even a bit of casual cannibalism. Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens were not the best of pals as it turns out, with one species using the other’s skulls as bowls. Imagine that, crunching kettle chips out of a skull-bowl- Habitat and IKEA we’re onto something here. Add in some knives made out of flint and some deer antler harpoons and I think we just found your next season kitchen-ware inspiration.
As well as the focus on the development of man, there’s also the animal aspect to consider. I mean, mammoths and rhinos and hippos oh my! Ancient rhino ribs, horses heels and hippo heads all help to weave together the narrative here, plus a pretty amusing image of what Trafalgar Square must have once looked like- not dissimilar to the African plains, don’t you know. LITERAL LIONS GUYS. Plus, it turns out, hippos have teeth the size of my arm. You would NOT want to bump into one of those doing a breast-stroke down the Thames, trust me.
The exhibition really encourages you to go beyond the bones, there’s stuff to touch, sounds to hear and films to watch. The real highlight however comes in the form of two incredibly life-like models made by Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis. Guys, meet Ned the Neanderthal and Quentin the Homo Sapiens.
Research done by the museum shows that many of us still have Neanderthal DNA in us, a result of inter-breeding between Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens, fascinating illustrated with the help of some celebrity big-hitters. Anyone who has encountered me before 8.30am when I haven’t had a big mug of coffee and put on my mascara will indeed be able to vouch for this claim.
Out of Africa and into the world we know today. Jog along to this exhibition before it closes in September to gain a glimpse of how we came to be. And definitely get your hands on one of these masks if you can. They’re really fun.
bloodyhellbrennan was a guest of The Natural History Museum