Galerie de l'Homme
The Galerie de l’Homme visit circuit is themed around understanding who we are as humans, understanding our place among living beings through what we used to be, and imagining what we will become
Part 1: Who are we?
The first part of the visit circuit invites you to question the uniqueness of mankind as well as its diversity. No single generally accepted criterion can suffice to characterise mankind, and a cross-cutting approach that combines anatomical, cultural and artistic aspects is always necessary.
Mankind: studied, measured, beautified
The visit circuit is interspersed objects, evidence of the evolution in the physical and mental representations of the human body in European history. The Musée de l’Homme boasts an exceptional series of anatomical representations (including anatomical charts, phrenological cast models and wax anatomical models).
This exceptional group is showcased in particular by the monumental structure made up of busts that rises up all the way to level 2, measuring:
- 19 m long;
- 11 m high;
- 1,900 kg.
79 plaster busts and 12 bronze busts, mounted on stands, illustrate human diversity. 4 sets of busts, ambassadors for all the individuals who served as models, speak to the circumstances of their production and the individual or collective journey that brought them all the way to Europe.
Part 2 : Where do we come from?
Drawing on fragments from the past, the second part of the visit circuit tells the story of how human lineages branched out right up to the radical shift in the Neolithic period:
- the emergence of the human lineage (6 to 4 million years ago);
- the African and tropical cradle of humanity (4 to 2 million years ago);
- the spread of the Homo genus (2 million to 200,000 years ago);
- parallel humans (200,000 to 10,000 years ago);
- the past 10,000 years.
The chronological and thematic breakdown invites visitors to discover how the human species and our biological, social, cultural and symbolic traits have passed down through the ages following a non-linear path and how several lineages developed and sometimes even coexisted, each responding in its own way to the environmental challenges it faced.
Le propos n'est pas d’entrer dans tout le détail de la succession et de la cœxistence des espèces paléoanthropologiques sujettes à des remises en cause régulières au gré des découvertes mais de présenter la vie et les productions des Hommes des temps préhistoriques et la continuité que nous entretenons avec nos ancêtres.
Treasures of the collections
The original collections of human fossils and prehistoric archaeological artefacts are showcased in two areas designed to elicit contemplation and stir emotion.
The ancestor shelter
A special area, off the main visit circuit, has been reserved for an encounter with the fragmented remains of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis. Skulls, fossilised bones and adornments are presented like treasures in carefully designed glass cases. Written explanations provide details about the circumstances surrounding their discovery. In 1868, at the Cro-Magnon shelter in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac in the Dordogne, Louis Lartet discovered several bones including the skull of an adult who lived 28,000 years ago, as well as adornments. Nicknamed “the old man”, he is presented with a woman from the Pataud shelter and the head of the “Lady of Cavillon”, covered in shells.
Displayed next to these representatives of Homo sapiens are Neandertals: the “Man from La Chapelle-aux-Saints”, the “Man from La Ferrassie” and the “Child from Le Pech-de-l’Azé”.
Art is the common denominator for the works displayed in a room on the mezzanine. Lights dimmed, four major objects dating from the Upper Palaeolithic are exhibited in shallow showcases to give visitors an up-close view: the Venus of Lespugue, a statuette made of mammoth ivory; the Madeleine plaque, depicting a mammoth; the notched stick from Montgaudier, made of reindeer antler and the fighting ibexes spear thrower, also made from reindeer antler, from the Grotte d’Enlène in Ariège.
Part 3: Where are we headed?
Still with a focus on Mankind, the last part of the visit circuit is grounded in the contemporary world. It questions the future of our species in a world that we have transformed and that continues to transform us in return. It revolves around three themes:
- globalisation, identities and diversities.
- a planet with limited resources
- an increasingly artificial world
It takes visitors on a journey through time to explore the history of globalisation and anthropisation, and through space to discover the planet's condition, the environmental impact of human activities and the relationships between societies and their environment. For the first time in history, humans are obliged to question whether the kind of development we ourselves have brought about is actually compatible with the future of human societies.
Hop on an express bus through Dakar
This bus, acquired in Dakar and restored, worked a local bus route in the capital of Senegal in the 1960s. It is now equipped to take visitors on a stationary journey: an audiovisual bus ride through a city where traditional stalls still stand side-by-side with buildings that symbolise globalisation.
Discover the lives of five families worldwide
How do they live? Everyday objects in conjunction with films made by researchers illustrate rural ways of life (a Sami herdsman from Lapland, a pygmy from Gabon, an inhabitant of the Siwa Oasis in Egypt) and urban lifestyles (a Parisian and an inhabitant of the city of Tashkent in Uzbekistan).
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