Biological Evolution: The Human Evolution from a Biological Perspective

Museum of Human Evolution

Museum space in which human evolution is explained from the biological point of view

The Hominids Gallery 
Reproductions in hyper-realist form of ten hominids from the past made by French sculptor Élisabeth Daynès, and based on the original fossils. These recreations take the viewer closer to what the species that preceded us were actually like in a more visual way and represent great craftsmanship as they are handmade and covered with human hair placed one at a time to give the artwork more realism.This evolutionary path began 7 million years ago, when the ancestor common to both sapiens and chimpanzees lived in Africa. Its evolutionary lineage up to modern-day humans is represented here by the most well-known species that followed this path, such as Lucy, the most complete specimen of Australopithecus afarensis, the African Homo habilis, who carried out the first industries in stone, or the hominids found in Atapuerca.

Why is Lucy so important?

The discovery of this skeleton in 1974 improved our knowledge and definition of the australopithecine genus. The study of its lower extremities, hip and spine served to recognise the oldest evidence of human bipedalism, which, as we now know, dates back to about six million years.

Why is Australopithecus africanus so important?

This is the species the skulls of Mrs. Ples and the Taung Child. The skull of the Taung Child was discovered in 1924 in a South African quarry. It belongs to a child individual dated estimated to be 2.5 million years old. Its importance lies in that it retains part of endocranium and because the publication of this fossil by Raymond Dart can be considered the birth of human palaeontology, since it was recognised as an ancestor of modern day humans.

Why is Paranthropus boisei so important?

The discovery of the skull colloquially known as "Nutcracker Man” by the Leakeys in 1959 was revolutionary, showing that human origins dated back beyond what was thought until then, and that human evolution was centred in Africa and not in Asia. It also was a definite recognition of the investigations of the Leakey family in the Olduvai Gorge, now considered the cradle of humanity.

Why is Homo habilis so important?

The manufacture of the first tools in the history of mankind has traditionally been attributed to this species. Therefore, it is considered the first representative of our own genus, the Homo genus.

Why is Homo georgicus so important?

Human remains of Homo georgicus, located south of the Caucasus in the Dmanisi site (Georgia) are the oldest human remains known outside Africa so far. They have been dated to 1.8 million years.

Why is Homo ergaster so important?

It is considered the first anatomically modern homo, with a mean cranial capacity of 1000 cm3 and a similar height to ours. One of the most emblematic remains associated with this species is known as the Turkana Boy. It belongs to an almost complete skeleton of an individual aged 10-12 years. It is associated to a more evolved technological mode, Mode 2 or Acheulean, which is characterised by bifacial carving and symmetry. They used fire although it is thought that they failed to have total control over it.

Why is Homo antecessor so important?

When the first human remains of this species were discovered at the Gran Dolina site (Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) in 1994, they were the oldest on the European continent. Their discovery meant delaying the first peopling of Europe by almost half a million years. Also, Homo antecessor meant discovering a hitherto unknown human species.

Why is Homo heidelbergensis so important?

Skull 5, colloquially known as Miguelón, is the most complete human skull in the whole fossil record. It was found at the site of the Sima de los Huesos (Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) along with nearly 7,000 other human remains of the Homo heidelbergensis. We can obtain a lot of information about those considered the ancestors of Neanderthals and about how they lived thanks to the largest accumulation of fossil human remains in the world today. The oldest known DNA was obtained from human fossils from the Sima de los Huesos.

Why is Homo rhodesiensis so important?

The first fossils found in the African site of Broken Hill (Zambia) are called Homo rhodesiensis and for many authors they resemble European Homo heidelbergensis. While these led here to Neanderthals, Homo rhodesiensis is considered the direct ancestor of modern humans in Africa, the Homo sapiens.

Why is Homo neanderthalensis so important?

Homo neanderthalensis is a species that coexisted with ours and was one of the last to become extinct. The growing knowledge of this species through genome sequencing has changed the view of prehistoric humans, to the point that nowadays a possible mixture or hybridisation with Homo sapiens is contemplated.

Charles Darwin
Step into the recreation of the brig in which Darwin conceived his theory of natural selection.

Travel diary that Charles Darwin wrote during his journey around the world, between 1831 and 1836, aboard the Beagle. Editor: Jonh Murray.

Recreation of the brigantine built at the Woolwich dockyard in 1820. Partial recreation of the stern of the Beagle at scale 1:1.

Darwin’s lounge armchair in Down (England). On September 14th, 1842, Charles Darwin moved to Down House, south of London. This location attempts to recreate the office where Darwin wrote many of his works at scale 1:1.

The brain
Nobel laureate Ramón y Cajal revealed to us how the brain works.

Original C. VERICK microscope. Original box, two lenses in their case and an eye piece. Paris. 1870.

We are standing before the same model of microscope that Santiago Ramón y Cajal used for his research.

Large scale recreation. This brain has been designed by artist Daniel Canogar and shows neuronal connections through recycled cables showwing brain peak activity.

Real human brain donated by the UCM.

Museum of Human Evolution (MEH)
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