- Human Evolution Research
- Climate and Human Evolution
- Anthropocene: The Age of Humans
- Asian Research Projects
- East African Research Projects
- Human Origins Program Team
- What's Hot In Human Origins?
- Fossil Forensics: Interactive
- E. A. Mammal Dentition Database
- Human Evolution Evidence
- 3D Collection
- Human Fossils
- Human Family Tree
- Timeline Interactive
- Human Characteristics
- About Us
- Broader Social Impacts Committee
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Exhibit Floorplan Interactive
Welcome to the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins! Whether you're preparing for your visit to the exhibition, reminding yourself of some of the things you saw when you visited, or are unable to visit in person, we hope you find this interactive floor plan useful.
As you walk through a short tunnel, you travel back through time from the present to 6 million years ago. Watch animations of some of their distant relatives and examples of different environments in which early humans lived.
Orientation (Ocean Hall)
- The milestones in human evolution timeline shows when some of the major human traits emerged over the past 6 million years—from walking upright to domesticating plants and animals.
- Explore a large illustration of the human family tree and locate our own species, Homo sapiens. We are the lone survivor on the tree today. Nearby are reproductions of skulls of five early human species that you can touch and compare.
- A panel shows the genetic relatedness of humans and other organisms, and explains that DNA confirms humans are primates. Between 8 and 6 million years ago, modern humans branched off from the common ancestor we share with chimpanzees and bonobos.
- A 2-minute climate video shows how Earth’s climate has shifted between periods that were warm and cool, and periods that were moist and dry. These shifts became more extreme over time. Human traits such as toolmaking and large brains emerged during times of extreme climate shifts.
Evolutionary Milestones Displays
These exhibits provide an opportunity to explore some major milestones in human evolution and to examine scientific evidence for each milestone. The milestones are organized in six major sections: Walking Upright; New Tools, New Foods; Changing Body Sizes and Shapes; Bigger Brains; Social Life; and Creating a World of Symbols.
Snapshots of Survival
These three immersive media experiences unveil the survival challenges faced by three different early human species living at three different times and places (Paranthropus robustus, 1.8 million years ago, Swartkrans, South Africa; Homo erectus, 990,000 years ago, Olorgesailie, Kenya; Homo neanderthalensis, 65,000 years ago, Shanidar Cave, Iraq) and show how scientists interpret prehistoric clues.
Smithsonian Research Station
Discover what Smithsonian Human Origins Program scientists have learned about early humans and past environments in the Rift Valley of East Africa and in northern China.
Meet Your Ancestors
In this area you can compare fossils of different early human species and explore how the species are related to each other.
- The curved display features 76 fossil skulls from 15 species of early humans—including the oldest-known fossil human (Sahelanthropus tchadensis) and Cro-Magnon Man.
- Examine fossils to see how four individuals died—from an eagle attack, crocodile bite, vitamin overdose, and blow to the head.
- Use a nearby computer interactive to examine some of the skulls more closely, to compare skulls, and to explore relationships among a variety of early human species.
- Here is a rare opportunity to see the remains of an original fossil Neanderthal skeleton discovered in 1957 in a cave in Iraq. You can examine the skeleton to discover how we know the individual’s age (40-50 years old), sex (male), and what he ate (plants). Look for the stab wound that may be evidence of the oldest-known homicide in the fossil record.
- Look into the eyes of eight early human species in this display of lifelike reconstructions.
- Transform yourself into one of these early humans at the nearby face morphing station.
Changing the World
This area focuses on how Homo sapiens became the sole surviving human species, how modern humans changed the world, and how our human traits help us imagine our future.
- Play a computer game challenging you to decide what humans might look like millions of years from now as Earth continues to change and humans continue to evolve.
- Play another computer game in which your group faces a series of imaginary survival challenges and make choices that affect our species’ survival - demonstrating that whether Homo sapiens thrives or becomes extinct depends in part on how adaptable we are and how well we cooperate with each other.
One Species, Living Worldwide
This 5-minute media presentation explores the origins of modern humans in Africa about 200,000 years ago and celebrates our species’ epic journey around the world. It explains that this shared genetic history is written in every cell of their bodies and that the DNA of all humans living today is 99.9% identical.
Orientation (Mammals Hall)
- Explore our ape heritage by touch fossil skulls of extinct apes—including two that could be an ancestor of modern humans, and seeing the body features that humans share with chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and other apes.
- Watch a 1-minute video that provides a quick review of milestones in human evolution.
- Revisit the family tree representing the common ancestry of every living human.
See bronze sculptures of five different early human species that lived between 2.3 million and 17,000 years ago and that are now extinct.