Exhibition: From Ape to Man. Five Landmarks in Human Evolution


9 minutos de lectura

Concern with establishing man's evolutional line has been a constant in our history and new findings often cast doubt on certain aspects of human evolution. What does seem clear though is that Earth's process of hominisation and humanisation began more than 4 million years ago. Bipedalism, the manufacture of tools, mastery of fire, self-awareness and abstract knowledge are five transcendental factors that altered the course of human evolution. The exhibition From Ape to Man reconstructs various stages of evolution: the life forms of the different hominids of 10 million years ago, when Dryopithecus populated Europe's rain forests, or of 35,000 years ago, when Homo sapiens created cave paintings. The exhibition combines scientific rigour with an educational purpose: life-sized dramatisations and realistic reproductions of individuals from the different species are some of the museographical elements making up the show.The presentation of From Ape to Man. Five Landmarks in Human Evolution in Sevilla has been made possible thanks to the collaboration of Sevilla City Hall. Produced by Fundació ”la Caixa” and curated by Luis Batista under the supervision of Eudald Carbonell, the show will be held under a marquee erected in Paseo Marqués de Contadero (Muelle de la sal) from 20 Novembre to 6 January. The show is structured around five main sections, five key moments in the evolution of mankind. A path that the different species of our genus have followed with greater or lesser success. Living in the trees The visitor is welcomed to the exhibition by a dramatisation representing a European rain forest from 10 million years ago. Here he can listen to a group of Dryopithecus laietanus hidden among the branches.Some 10 million years ago, a Eurasian ancestor of the missing link, Dryopithecus ("tree ape" in Greek), developed brachiation, greater hand length, arms that were longer than the legs, a shorter, more rigid spinal column and a thicker thorax. In this way he could swing from limb to limb and thus escape from predators on the ground. He was 1.10 m tall and weighed approximately 34 kg. These anthropoids lived in groups and warned each other when they detected danger. They also shared food and diversions. From this point on, the hominids underwent a series of cultural adaptations and acquisitions in order to survive in a hostile environment, finally becoming man as we know him.Inside the hall, one can view the realistic sculpture of a Dryophitecus and the reproduction of the skeleton of Dryophitecus laietanus of Can Llobateres known as "Jordi". Another species on display is Ardipithecus ramidus, the first known hominid, which lived some 5 million years ago and belonged to an offshoot of our evolutional line, close to the separation between chimpanzees and humans. BipedalismSix million years ago, climatic changes brought about a shrinking of the rain forests, thus prompting new needs for the anthropoids, such as a change of habitat or the need to go down to the ground and develop new defence mechanisms. Bipedalism enabled the primates to reach out towards a more distant horizon, to move more effectively and to ensure their food supply. Having free hands also eased the collection and processing of foods.The road to hominisation was not an easy one and it would appear that climatic changes, together with biological ones, played a key role in the evolutional success of the species. Australopithecus anamensisThe hominid colonies were already bipedal more than 4 million years ago. The oldest confirmed hominid was Australopithecus anamensis (southern ape from Lake Turkana). With his fine bone structure, he walked in a way very similar to our own and evolved towards the human genus and towards Paranthropus, which died out without issue 1.5 million years ago. The remains of Australopithecus anamensis that have been recovered point to a diet based on hard fruits and vegetables, and also confirm his bipedalism. The prints left in the volcanic ash of Laetoli 3.6 million years ago provide impressive testimony to the remote origins of human bipedalism. The visitor will be able to see life-size sculptures representing the Australopithecus and Paranthropus genuses and reproductions of craniums and fossils, including the female skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis from the Pliocene Age found in Hadar, Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago and known as "Lucy". ToolsWhat sets apart the Homo genus from earlier hominids is his capacity to manufacture tools from natural objects. This was the first indication of cultural acquisition and all the rest would soon follow. Language and increased brain size evolved together, in interaction with the production of tools. Tools made it possible for him to hunt and quarter his catch. Improved diet and meat consumption led to greater cerebral development while this in turn resulted in technological development. The oldest human remains found belong to Homo habilis. This species appeared 2.5 million years ago and lived in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. The first tools created by Homo habilis were pebblestones that were pounded into sharp blades. A showcase displays a number of lithic tools: unretouched unifacial, bifacial, trifacial ones and also flakes related to the hominids that made them. The hall also features a lithic workshop, recovered onsite in the Northeastern Sahara, which is approximately 5000 years old. In it one can see a wide variety of tools: blades with back edges, scrapers, denticulated objects and arrowheads of different types.The interactive module The point penetrates enables the visitor to see how hunting took place in prehistoric times, demonstrating the advantages of pointed tools over rounded-edged ones. FireFire control was one of the most important cultural conquests in human evolution. The oldest evidence of this control goes back 400,000 years. Mastery of fire represented a true revolution in primitive communities. It enabled them to roast and preserve foods, thus improving their diet. It also facilitated the conquest of new territories and helped them to defend themselves from predators. Social relations were encouraged by increased daylight.In this venue, the visitor will find the reconstruction of a group of Homo erectus sheltered inside a cave and gathered around a fire. He will also experience what it was like to make fire through rubbing, as was practised 300,000 years ago.From Homo antecessor to Homo heidelbergensisThe first hominids to master fire were, in all certainty, Homo heidelbergensis, in Europe and possibly Homo erectus in Asia. Homo antecessor, descendent of Homo ergaster, was the last common ancestor of modern man and the Neanderthals. The remains of six members of this species were found at Atapuerca. Cranial capacity grew in Homo ergaster to 800-900 cubic centimetres, while in Homo antecessor it surpassed 1000 cubic centimetres. Self-awarenessThe earliest human burials inform us of the adoption of symbolic behaviour. For the first time man possessed an awareness of his own existence, felt anxiety about death and wondered about an afterlife. These concerns once again socialised human groups. Sima de los Huesos (Pit of Bones) at Atapuerca in the province of Burgos shows evidence of the oldest funeral practice. The bottom of a vertical pit there reveals an accumulation of cadavers of Homo heidelbergensis from 300,000 years ago. This is a unique and exceptional case from the Lower Paleolithic Age, contrasting sharply with the large number of burials from the Mid-Paleolithic Age, such as those at Skhul, Qafzeh and Kebara in Israel.The Neanderthals buried their dead close to their own habitat, in very visible tombs and placed in foetal position. The deceased also received a symbolic tribute in the form of an offering. A module with a realistic dramatisation recreates the dying moments of a Neanderthal, observed by a group from his community. The faces of these figures reflect a mixture of compassion and fear. Weeping and sighs are heard in the background. These feelings are characteristic of the human genus and we ourselves have inherited them after millions of years of evolution. Together with this dramatisation one can see various archaeological materials made during the Mid-Paleolithic Age, such as the reproduction of the first skeleton discovered at the site at La Ferrassie (France), an example of Neanderthal burial. The Neanderthals are the human fossil type that has yielded us the greatest number of remains. Physically robust, with short extremities, a thick trunk and a larger brain than our own, they were capable gatherers, hunters and carrion eaters. Creators of a wide range of tools, they systematically made use of fire, cared for their peers and buried them when they died. The Neanderthals populated Europe for 200,000 years, survived glaciation and, although highly intelligent, died off some 25,000 years ago, leaving the way open to a newcomer from Africa: Homo sapiens. Both species coexisted for thousands of years. Symbol... the beginning of abstract knowledge The emergence of symbolic language shows the complexity of the human mind and its capacity for abstraction. Following this first step, language, art and the civilisation would be developed. Primitive works of art had an aesthetic, mystic function, which also promoted social cohesion. Homo sapiens developed a wide variety of artistic forms, such as cave painting, clay modelling, carving and engraving. The oldest known art samples go back 400,000 years and are found in Germany. Made by Homo heidelbergensis, they consist of elephant bones decorated with engraved stripes. The Venus of Berekhat Ram, found in the Near East, dates back 250,000 years. These are two isolated examples, since the artistic phenomenon truly emerged in the Upper Paleolithic Age, which would show the existence of a mankind already organised and structured from a social standpoint. The artistic representations found in the many caves show the evolution of the figurative styles of parietal art and the variation in the representations of natural objects. They also include signs, animals and the progressive introduction of movement, detailism and realism. This last section of the exhibition recreates a scene from 16,000 years ago showing a Homo sapiens painting a horse or a bison. To add colour to their works, artists used a variety of natural elements, such as coal, iron oxide for the reds and limonite for the yellows. Finally, a showcase displays replicas of some of the most famous prehistoric sculptures, symbols of fertility: Venus, including those of Willendorf, Laussel and Dolni Vestonice. Each was created using a different technique, in limestone, bas-relief or baked clay, among others.From Ape to Man. Five Landmarks in Human EvolutionFrom 20 Novembre to 6 January MarqueePaseo Marqués de ContaderoMuelle de la salSevillaThe exhibition is open to the public: Tuesdays to Fridays, 12:00 noon – 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 12:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. – 9: 00 p.m. Closed Mondays.www.fundacio@lacaixa.esADMISSION FREE OF CHARGE