About the exhibition

About the exhibition

  • Touch human heads display

    Four human head casts stand at the entrance to the exhibition, representing the four human species in our story of evolution.

  • Oldest human foot prints

    Casts and images of the oldest human footprints in Europe, recently discovered on a Norfolk beach. The footprints date back to around 900,000 years ago.

  • Pine cones from Happisburgh, Norfolk

    Cones of pine and spruce found at Happisburgh in Norfolk reveal that a coniferous forest grew there nearly one million years ago.

  • Swanscombe Neanderthal skull

    This 400,000-year-old faceless skull of an early Neanderthal woman was found in Swanscombe, Kent. It could be one of the first Neanderthals ever found in Britain.

  • Neanderthal model in the exhibition

    Named Ned by the public, our life-size reconstruction of a Neanderthal stands 1.55m tall and takes centre stage in the exhibition. He is one of two specially commissioned models created by the twin Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis.

  • Homo sapiens model in the exhibition

    Our Homo sapiens model stands 1.75m tall near the Neanderthal model. He is the darker-skinned and taller of the two and holds a tool between his lips used to adorn his body with ink. Modern humans arrived in Britain around 40,000 years ago.

  • Hippo cannine found in Trafalgar Sqaure

    In the 1950s, building work in Trafalgar Square unearthed this hippopotamus canine from 125,000 years ago. It is displayed next to other animal fossils and specimens against a dramatic backdrop of a modern-day Trafalgar Square.

  • Trafalgar Square 125,000 years ago

    Artist's impression of what Trafalgar Square may have looked like 125,000 years ago, when the Thames' river banks reached this far east and cave lions, straight-tusked elephants, hippos and Stephanorhinus once roamed.

  • Trafalgar Square today

    Trafalgar Square as we know it today. How much has changed.

  • Ancient lion found in Kent

    Lions were the top carnivores in ancient Britain. These fossil bones were found in Crayford, Kent. Herds of large animals like aurochs and bison invited prey, as did humans occasionally too.

  • Ancient human teeth showing evidence of cannibalism

    This upper jaw belonged to a teenager and is one of several human remains found around 14,700 years ago in Gough's Cave, Somerset. It shows cut marks and is clear evidence of cannibalism.

  • Oldest known burial ground in Britain

    These are the bones of a man buried in a Welsh cave around 33,000 years ago. His decorated body was discovered in 1823. This is the earliest known evidence in Britain of modern humans treating their dead with some form of ritual.

  • Neanderthal flint tools

    These flint tools discovered in Norfolk are the first sign that Neanderthals returned to Britain after an absence of 120,000 years. The tools were found near the butchered remains of 11 woolly mammoths.

  • Hippo skeleton

    Come face to face with a huge hippopotamus skeleton. Hippos have changed little since the relatives of this modern specimen, and 125,000 years ago these creatures were swimming freely in the River Thames.

What's in the exhibition

Explore more than 200 specimens and objects, including lifelike models of a Neanderthal and a Homo sapiens, specially commissioned for the exhibition.

As you meet the earliest occupants of what we now call Britain, a landscape emerges of a lost world where mammoths, elephants and rhinos roamed freely. It's hard to believe that around 125,000 years ago, lions lived in Trafalgar Square and hippos swam in the Thames.

Amazing archaeological discoveries

Incredible finds from sites around Britain such as Kent's Cavern in Devon, Pontnewydd in North Wales and Happisburgh in Norfolk, reveal what life was like in ancient Britain

See a skull from the earliest known Neanderthal in Britain, the oldest wooden spear in the world, the largest hand axe in Europe and other remarkable objects from our past.

The human story today

In the last section of the exhibition, find out what six well-known figures, including Bill Bailey and Alice Roberts, discovered about their own genetic ancestry by having their DNA analysed.

See how we all fit into a wider human family tree, which includes our extinct Neanderthal cousins and how we got here out of Africa.

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