Bilzingsleben is one of the most important sites in early human history worldwide. Remains of Homo erectus were found in only a few other places throughout Europe. But only here do findings and tangible evidence reveal such an abundance of details that allow us amazingly precise insights into the life and behaviour of this archaic human form.
About 370,000 years ago a small group of early prehistoric humans set up a permanent base camp on the high bank of a lake. They left behind numerous tools and implements, scraps of food, and remains of prey animals. There were living, working, and activity zones in the carefully chosen encampment. The remains of fireplaces and round huts as well as the structuring of the encampment are striking indicators of the developed cultural level of those people.
Most impressive, however, are the skeletal remains of Homo erectus itself, through which we come face to face with our ancestors, as well as the oldest known evidence of abstract thought carved in bone.
Described by our visitors and the museum team as the ›thinker‹, this prehistoric man sits enthroned and ponders in the centre of the ›Mental Power‹ exhibition area. He represents a fossil relative of people living today from the transition period to Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. The lifelike sculpture was made by Elisabeth Daynès (Paris).
In recent years it was possible for the first time to extract and analyse usable DNA from organic remains of early humans. This brought a lot of movement into palaeoanthropology and many new and far-reaching insights are to be expected. Many researchers currently assume that the Neanderthals developed in Europe from Homo erectus, which is also known as Homo heidelbergensis in Europe. Homo sapiens sapiens has his cradle in Africa, his ancestor again being Homo erectus. From approx. 40,000 BC Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo sapiens neanderthalensis encountered one another in Europe. Today, only one species is left on Earth: us, Homo sapiens sapiens.
Both the Neanderthals and the Homo sapiens sapiens descend from the so-called Homo erectus – the first early human species that came from Africa to Europe and finally also to central Germany.