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New human evolution gallery at the Natural History Museum

Discover the intertwined history of our species. A new free gallery opens at the Natural History Museum on Friday 18 December 2015.

Where do we come from? What makes us human? These fundamental mysteries have shaped the study of human origins for centuries. Trace our species’ evolution from the first upright primate through to modern humans.

Casts of the reconstructed skull, hand and jaw of Homo naledi will be on show in the new gallery. The recently discovered new human species will join some of the most important specimens from the Museum’s unique collection, alongside the latest research evidence.

Spanning seven million years of evolution, highlights will include the first adult female Neanderthal cranium ever discovered and a replica 'Peking Man' skull, which represents some of the oldest evidence of human habitation in China. They will be accompanied by the most scientifically accurate life-size Neanderthal and early Homo sapiens models ever made.

Professor Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at the Museum says:

'Over the past decade, we and our colleagues have unravelled many astonishing ideas and discoveries using the Museum’s collection of human and pre-human fossils. With the latest investigative research techniques that are available here, such as CT scanning and DNA analysis, we continue to uncover the origins and dispersals of humans in an ever-changing world and present these advances in this permanent display.'

The gallery will feature original skulls, teeth and jawbones, full casts of skeletons and the stone tools that reveal clues on how humans interacted with their surroundings. Also on display will be fossils of animals that shared the same environments as different human species.

Prof Stringer adds: 'A new ancient relative of ours was discovered only two years ago in the Rising Star Cave in South Africa, adding a new branch to our family tree. Ground-breaking discoveries such as these show just how crucial human origins research is for understanding our place in the natural world. I’m delighted that the Museum can now connect people with this developing research and demonstrate the changes in behaviour, physique and technology over time.'

The gallery will explore what a hominin is, the complex family tree of humans, changes in teeth, diet and lifestyles and how species of the past and changing environments have shaped today’s modern human. Our latest scientific research includes new archaeological findings, advanced DNA analysis and the direct dating of bones and teeth.

Sir Michael Dixon, Director of the Museum says:

'Behind the scenes here every day, our scientists are working hard to understand the origins and evolution of humans and fill in the gaps in our knowledge. This new gallery will inspire the next generation to explore our place in the natural world. Our sincere thanks go to the DCMS/Wolfson Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund for the funding that has enabled us to open this display of our pioneering research and collection.'

Notes for editors

Images: Available to download from the Human Evolution gallery folder on Box.
All images are © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

Media contact
Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 5654

The Natural History Museum welcomes more than five million visitors a year and is a world-leading science research centre. Through its unique collection and unrivalled expertise it is tackling the biggest challenges facing the world today. It helps enable food security, eradicate disease and manage resource scarcity. It is studying the diversity of life and the delicate balance of ecosystems to ensure the survival of our planet. For more information go to