A close encounter with our extinct ancestors, like a journey through time in a futuristic environment. This is the new Hall of Human Evolution at the Natural History Museum of the University of Pisa located in Calci, which will be inaugurated on Friday 22 September at 4.30 pm.
The exhibition’s main figures are life-size silicone reconstructions of six species of hominins, a group of primates that includes humans and our extinct ancestors. The hyper-realistic models, three females and three males, are placed inside cylindrical display cases and it’s possible to walk around them literally finding ourselves “face to face” with each ancestor. It is thus possible to meet some particularly well-known species such as Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis and others less well-known such as Homo floresiensis and Homo naledi. As far as our own species, Homo sapiens, is concerned, visitors themselves will be the protagonists. One of the display cases is in fact a multimedia station capable of scanning our bodies and placing us next to our extinct ancestors to give us a “group selfie” that spans four million years.
The exhibition also features some tactile elements, such as the skulls of the six species placed outside each display case and some replica bones placed on the skeleton outline depicted on a large display panel, with the aim of delving into anatomy and understanding the importance of the work of an anthropologist.
Finally, a place of honour goes to Homo naledi, a species discovered in South Africa ten years ago by a research team that included Professor Damiano Marchi, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pisa and Director of the Natural History Museum during 2020-2022.
"Homo naledi is a species with peculiar characteristics and its exceptional discovery has led us to reconsider the recent evolution of the genus Homo, which is much more complex than what was thought up to 10-15 years ago," says Professor Marchi. “In this case, we put its display case in front of a life-size reconstruction of the Dinaledi Chamber, the site where it was discovered and where over 1,500 bones were found.
“The new layout of the room, which completes the Museum’s Primate Gallery, has been realised thanks to the contribution of the Pisa Foundation,” concludes Professor Elena Bonaccorsi, Director of the Museum,” and illustrates the main stages of our evolutionary history, with some in-depth studies telling us about dozens of species that have populated the Earth from four million years ago to the present day. Some species lived simultaneously in different areas of the planet, while others met, like us and the Neanderthals, according to an evolutionary path that we hope to have illustrated in an engaging way for the visitor”.
The setting up of the room was supervised by Dr. Simone Farina, the Museum’s curator, and Professor Damiano Marchi. Other contributors were Lorenzo Possenti, the artist who created the models of the six hominins, Pietro Begliomini, Beatrice Consani, Chiara Gelli and Maurizio Badame, technicians, and Museum collaborators, who carried out the reconstruction of the Dinaledi Chamber, as well as all the Museum staff.
The opening will be held in the Museum’s Conference Room and will be streamed live on the Museum’s official channels (Facebook and Youtube). Free entrance subject to availability. The programme includes institutional greetings by the Rector of the University of Pisa Riccardo Zucchi, the President of the Pisa Foundation Stefano Del Corso, the Mayor of Calci Massimiliano Ghimenti and the Museum Director Elena Bonaccorsi. This will be followed by speeches by Damiano Marchi and Giorgio Manzi, Professor of Anthropology at “La Sapienza” University of Rome.
At the end it will be possible to visit the new hall.
For further information: https://www.msn.unipi.it/it/eventi/la-nuova-sala-dellevoluzione-umana/