Highlights of the exhibition

Catch a glimpse of the drama and treasures you will find on your journey through the Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story 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. Touch and compare the faces of Homo antecessor, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens (two men, one woman and a child). 

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.

They help create a picture of the climate and environment that framed the lives of the human pioneers in Britain.

Watch the film uncovering the discovery of ancient human footprints at Happisburgh.

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. 

Look closely and you'll see the skull comprises three parts. Despite its age, you can still see the mark her brain made on the surrounding bone. Faint impressions of folds and blood vessels show it was a similar size to that of a human's brain today.

Neanderthal model in the exhibition

Recently named Ned by the public, our life-size model reconstruction of a Neanderthal in his 20s stands 1.55m tall and takes centre stage in the exhibition. The Neanderthal is one of two specially commissioned models created by the twin Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis in their studio in the Netherlands.

Neanderthals lived in Britain between about 400,000 years ago and 50,000 years ago, and perhaps even later. 

Undoubtedly intelligent, they were innovative toolmakers and brave and skilful hunters.

Homo sapiens model in the exhibition

Our specially commissioned 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. There was something different about the brains and minds of Homo sapiens in comparison to earlier species. They created artistic representations of their world in carvings, paintings and sculptures on a scale not seen before. 

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 where flesh has been removed and, along with the other remains, 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 body was decorated with periwinkle shells, red dye and jewellery made from mammoth ivory and 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 very close to the butchered remains of 11 woolly mammoths.

Hippo cannine found in Trafalgar Sqaure

In 1960, building work in Trafalgar Square unearthed this hippopotamus canine from 125,000 years ago. This remarkable find is displayed next to other animal fossils and specimens against a dramatic backdrop of a modern-day Trafalgar Square.

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.

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.