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Neanderthal Museum
Talstraße 300
40822 Mettmann
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Museum and Discovery site are open from Tue to Sun 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
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Special Exhibition

Meat!

Stone Age Hunters, Trappers, Fishermen

November 22nd to March 15th, 2015, in the Neanderthal Museum

Meat is regarded as the driving force of our evolution. It was an important source of energy for our ancestors' growing brains. For millennia, hunting was an essential part of human life. This exhibition, designed in collaboration with the well-known experimental archaeologists Harm Paulsen and Ulrich Stodiek, uses reconstructions and models to illustrate the technical ingenuity of Stone Age hunters, trappers and fishermen. The replicas are based on cross-cultural comparisons and on knowledge gained in experimental archaeology. They serve as visual evidence of Stone Age skills, for weapons and traps are seldom found in archaeological sites. All the weapons and tools on exhibit are in working order and are exact replicas of European finds from the early Paleolithic about 300,000 years ago to the late Neolithic about 4,000 years ago.

The diet of our earliest ancestors in the African savannas consisted of leaves and fruits. This changed fundamentally around 2.3 million years ago: our ancestors began to add meat to their diet. Biologically, humans are omnivores. Carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals can be obtained from both a plant-based and a meat-based diet. However, meat and fish contain a high proportion of nutrients and are an ideal source of energy. They are fuel for our brain, an organ that uses up 20% of our body’s energy. With our larger brain, we became smarter and began to develop more effective weapons and sophisticated hunting techniques. And we invented fire. A huge advantage: cooked food is easier to digest and is an effective source of energy. A complex language enabled humans to pass on knowledge and technology, to develop hunting strategies and to communicate while hunting.

Highlights of the exhibition are authentic replicas of sensational archaeological finds, such as the oldest hunting weapons, the Schöningen spears or the Lehringen spear, used by Neanderthals to kill a forest elephant. Much later, after the last Ice Age, the use of bow and arrow as hunting weapons spread widely. The first and most famous person to have been murdered by an arrow is Ötzi the Iceman. The deadly arrow was lodged in his left shoulder blade. He carried an unfinished bow and arrows with him.

Humans' ability to adapt to various food sources is our secret to success. And so Neanderthals devised ways of utilizing the rivers, lakes and oceans full of fish around them. No fishing equipment from this time is preserved, but remains of meals that include fish have been found at campsites. The oldest known harpoons and gorge hooks date from the end of the last Ice Age and are around 15,000 years old. Fish weirs, fish traps and fishing nets found in Denmark are much younger, but at least 5,000 years old.

A series of events accompany the exhibition. An extraordinary event will take place on Friday, January 30th. Together with Peter Inhoven, a celebrated butcher from Düsseldorf, a program revolving around meat was developed.