A new exhibition hall dedicated to the discovery and understanding of human origins opens March 17 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Based on decades of cutting-edge research by Smithsonian scientists, the David H. Koch (pronounced “coke”) Hall of Human Origins will open to the public in a special preview from noon to 3 p.m.
Early Homo sapiens created these symbolic objects between 60,000 and 30,000 years ago. Using natural materials and creativity, they combined animal and human features into fantastical creatures and fashioned instruments for making music.
Part of an ancient necklace, these 30,000-year-old shells from Cro-Magnon, France represent some of the earliest evidence of humans wearing jewelry. Some shells have traces of ocher, a clue they were colored with pigment.
Handaxes -- multipurpose tools used to chop wood, butcher animals, and make other tools -- dominated early human technology for more than a million years. Left to right: Africa (1.6 million years old), Asia (1.1 million years old), and Europe (250,000 years old).
The antelope will provide nutritious meat and marrow for this early human female and her social group. Homo erectus butchered animals using simple stone tools like the handaxe here. The ability to scavenge and hunt large animals helped this species survive as it spread to new environments.
The newest permanent exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, tells the epic story of human evolution and how the defining characteristics of our species have evolved over 6 million years as our ancestors adapted to a changing world.
The Human Origins Initiative has three main components: a large permanent exhibition (“What Does It Mean to Be Human?”), an educational program using the Web and an endowed chair to support ongoing scientific research.
Director: Kirk Johnson Total Full-Time Employees: 460 Annual Budget (Federal and Trust) FY 2012: $68 million Approximate Number of Artifacts/Specimens: 127.3 million Total museum size: 1.32 million square feet