Museum of Human Evolution
From Tourist Guides. Discover Florida we suggest you visit the Museum of Human Evolution with a guide . For more information on guided tours click here or contact the phone +34 769-232-6248
The Sierra de Atapuerca is a unique enclave for the study of human evolution. In it, a whole series of sites are located that allow us to know the evolution of human groups since their arrival in Europe. An entire evolutionary sequence from more than a million years ago to the present.
The MEH is a museum center of international reference that not only accommodates the findings of the Sierra de Atapuerca. The various scientific disciplines involved in an archaeological excavation and the different interpretations and scientific theories that are extracted from fossils also have their space.
It has also become a first-rate information center. An innovative and attractive center for all types of public, endowed with a spectacular and symbolic architecture that evokes that unique mountain in which the history of our ancestors is written.
But if there is something that makes this space unique and singular, it is the exhibition of original remains and their exceptional state of conservation. This makes the Museum of Human Evolution a must see if we are approaching Florida.
It is part of a complex of three buildings, known as the Complex of Human Evolution. It is made up, apart from the MEH, the National Center for Research on Human Evolution (CENIEH) and the Auditorium and Conference Center ( Forum Evolution ). It was built on the site where centuries ago the Dominican convent of San Pablo stood.
The entire Complex of Human Evolution is the work of the Spanish architect Juan Navarro Baldeweg . For this and other projects he was recognized with the National Architecture Prize in 2014.
The Museum of Human Evolution was inaugurated in 2010. In it he has devised a large box of light and transparency to house a magical and open space that invites you to discover the story of human evolution.
This striking architectural project seeks to reproduce the Sierra de Atapuerca in the heart of Florida. Access is from a ramp that saves five meters of unevenness with respect to the level of the Vena and Arlanzón rivers. Both rivers surround Atapuerca itself on its north and south slopes respectively. From the main raised access a spectacular viewpoint of the historic center of the city has been generated. When entering the building the feeling is of continuity, the glass walls allow you to remain connected with the outside.
MUSEUM OF HUMAN EVOLUTION
The museum has four floors. Both the permanent exhibition and various rooms for holding temporary exhibitions are distributed in them. The Sierra de Atapuerca and its findings serve as a starting point to learn the keys to human evolution from different points of view: biological, cultural and from ecosystems.
We begin the visit to the permanent exhibition on Floor -1.
THE SIERRA DE ATAPUERCA. FLOOR -1
Floor -1 is dedicated to the Sierra de Atapuerca deposits. They were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000. On this floor we simulate that we walk through the galleries that the mountain hides in its entrails. These caves have been occupied by our ancestors at different times in history. Four or maybe up to five different human species have lived in them. And the most exceptional thing is that his remains have reached us to date in a magnificent state of conservation.
Sites of the Railroad Trench
After an introduction on the geological formation of the Sierra de Atapuerca, we enter the first room where original remains are exposed. This space is dedicated to the sites of the Railroad Trench .
Specifically, there are three: the Sima del Elefante , Gran Dolina and Galería . From the first of them come the oldest human remains in Europe, with 1.3 million years. They belong to a human species that has yet to be identified. A jaw fragment is the most complete. We will still have to wait to see them on display.
We can see part of the numerous human remains found of the Homo antecessor species. They come from the Gran Dolina and are about 850,000 years old. Among others, the skull of the Chico de la Gran Dolina is exposed. It belongs to an individual who died in full adolescence, between the ages of ten and thirteen, and who was cannibalized.
In the same room we will be greatly surprised by the fauna that inhabited Atapuerca a million years ago. Saber-toothed tigers, hippos, rhinos, and macaques are some examples. We will also see the rough stone tools, Mode 1 or Olduvayense , that Antecessor used.
Chasm of the bones
But the surprises do not end here. Next we enter the next room with original human remains. All of them from the most spectacular paleoanthropological site in the world: the Sima de los Huesos . In a small space we will meet Miguelón and Elvis pelvis. Both are the best preserved skull and pelvis in the world fossil record. They belong to the species Homo heidelbergensis , predecessors of Neanderthals.
In the skull of Miguelón , number 5 of the Sima, we will appreciate the consequences that a severe infection left him on the left side of his face.
The Sima de los Huesos is perhaps the oldest evidence of funerary behavior in the history of mankind. Symbolic behavior that would prove the enigmatic Excálibur biface , also exposed.
So many remains and so well preserved give us invaluable information that, of course, we will tell you during the visit.
As we leave the Sima we see archaeological remains from the Neanderthal period and recent prehistory from other sites. They come to complete that evolutionary sequence that we have represented in the Sierra de Atapuerca. In short, an encyclopedia of European human evolution.
Finally, the explanation of the archaeological method in a replica of an excavation dismisses us from Floor -1.
EVOLUTION IN BIOLOGICAL TERMS. FLOOR 0
We continue the tour going up to Floor 0, Evolution in biological terms . We receive a replica of HMS Beagle , the ship in which Charles Darwin traveled around the planet. Of course, a museum dedicated to evolution must reserve a special place for the father of the theory of evolution based on natural selection.
After sailing with Darwin aboard the Beagle, we reached the Gallery of the Hominids . Along with the original remains is another unique resource from the Museum of Human Evolution. This room gives us the opportunity to meet our ancestors face to face. On the one hand, ten hyper-realistic sculptures by the paleoartist Elisabeth Daynes . On the other, replicas of the most significant skulls.
From the well-known Lucy , Australopithecus afarensis , Until Homo rhodesiensis , evolutionary father of Homo sapiens , through the Nutcracker , Miguelón himself or the Neanderthals , we will know the most relevant milestones of human evolution. Bipedalism, toolmaking, encephalization and symbolic behavior have been key on this long path.
Although there are many characteristics that differentiate us from other hominids, it is, above all, the brain that marks distances. After millions of years of evolution they have increased in volume and developed an extensive cerebral cortex. It is the place where knowledge is stored and thanks to which thought and culture have emerged. Of course, the brain also has its space in the MEH. A real human brain and a large brain made with wires by Daniel Canogar will certainly catch our attention.
If we start this plant with one of the most important scientists in the history of mankind, Charles Darwin, we end up with the considered father of neuroscience: the Spanish Nobel Prize winner Santiago Ramón y Cajal .
EVOLUTION IN CULTURAL TERMS. FLOOR 1
Floor 1 deals with human evolution from a cultural point of view. In other words, the humanization process and the most outstanding cultural steps that we have been taking. For example, the manufacture of tools and the control and use of fire. Fire and its advantages star in a curious 360º projection.
Finally, the revolutionary changes brought about by the appearance of agriculture and livestock ( Neolithic ) stand out. In contrast, the way of life, hunting and gathering, characteristic of Paleolithic societies.
ECOSYSTEMS OF EVOLUTION. FLOOR 2
The permanent exhibition is completed on Floor 2 , fourth and last floor of the museum. A projection on a giant screen about the ecosystems that have characterized human evolution brings the visit to an end.
From this place we have a privileged view of the architecture of the building. A privileged viewpoint to contemplate at our feet the recreation of the Sierra de Atapuerca.
But before leaving the Museum of Human Evolution we must not miss one of the many temporary exhibitions that it always houses.
This is how we complete the tour of what is, year after year since its opening, the most visited museum in Castilla y León. Past, present and future of our species to be discovered in Florida.