A Timeline of Human History in 9 Museums

Homo Sapiens: 300,000 years in the making

By Google Arts & Culture

Lucy by Elisabeth DaynesJeongok Prehistory Museum

The story of humans, their biology and their cultures, is hundreds of thousands of years long, and rich with artefacts. Scroll on, and use click-and-drag, to take a virtual tour of 10 museums which tell the story of how we became who we are...

1. The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge

The Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University, England, holds over one million objects representing two million years of human history, from the earliest stone tools to typewriters taken on polar expeditions.

This large totem pole, made by the Haida of northwest modern-day Canada, would have been raised at 'potlatches' (feasts), like a house-building potlatch or the mortuary potlatch. The pole would have been given as a gift from one clan to another, as a sign of allegiance.

2. Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

In Oxford, the Pitt Rivers museum is the foremost anthropology and archaeological institution. Here, objects are arranged by how they are used, not their origin or age. This style of display is no longer fashionable, making this museum an unusual and distinctive sight.

3. Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris

As well as showing the indigenous art and cultures of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, exhibitions at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac have explored tattoos, propaganda posters, and the popularity of tiki bars in post-war American society.

4. Musée de l'Homme, Paris

The Museum of Man is one of the oldest anthropology museums in France. Today, it is dedicated to studying the evolution of humans and human societies in keeping with its founder Paul Rivet's view that, "Humanity is one and indivisible, not only in space, but also in time."

5. Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City

The Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City is the nation's pre-eminent museum of Pre-Columbian culture. The collection holds national treasures of the Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec civilisations, including the Aztec Stone of the Sun calendar and Xochipilli statue.

The building itself is an architectural marvel. Designed in 1964 by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Jorge Campuzano, and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca, the museum halls surround a stunning pond garden, covered by a monumental concrete roof.

6. Museo de Antropología de Xalapa, Xalapa

Having been the homeland of many civilisations, it's no surprise that Central America is now the site of many museums. Visit the anthropological museum in Xalapa to see the exquisitely carved Olmec colossal heads.

7. Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Bloomington

At Indiana University, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures tells the story of Native American culture and contemporary folk arts. As a part of the university, the collections help educate future scholars and the local community.

8. Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Vancouver

The collection of the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, Canada, focusses on the diverse cultures of the First Nations of the Northwest Coast. Inside are nearly 600,000 artefacts, outside are reconstructed Haida houses and totem poles, built by Bill Reid and Doug Cranmer.

9. National Museum of Ethnology, Suita

For nearly 10,000 years, Japan was inhabited by hunter gatherers, known today as the Jōmon people. Today, their distinctive cord-patterned pottery can be found in the National Museum of Ethnology in the city of Suita.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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