World-Famous Human Evolution Expert to Open Exhibition at Torquay Museum

Prof Chris Stringer & Neanderthal Skull
(Last Updated On: October 4, 2015)

The renowned human evolution expert, author and television presenter, Professor Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum, will launch Torquay Museum’s new hands-on exhibition, Britain’s First Humans, with a talk that will explore the story of human life in Britain, at 2pm on 14th October. When did the first humans arrive in Britain? Where did they come from? What did they look like?

“We’re delighted that Professor Stringer is launching this exhibition,” said Torquay Museum Director, Basil Greenwood. “He has a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s most respected experts on human evolution, and has acted as scientific adviser and presenter on many television programmes.”

The Britain’s First Humans exhibition, which runs until 12th December, gives visitors to Torquay Museum a unique opportunity to see two of the oldest human fossils in Britain. It features rarely-seen fossils from a touring exhibition, Humans in Ancient Britain, by London’s world-famous Natural History Museum.

Torquay Museum is the permanent home of Britain’s oldest fossil of our own species, Homo sapiens, which was discovered in Kents Cavern and dates back 41,000 years. But in a remarkable first, Torquay Museum’s Britain’s First Humans exhibition now brings together this ancient human fossil with Britain’s oldest human ancestor fossil, of the species known as Homo heidelbergensis, which dates back half a million years and is normally housed at the Natural History Museum. It is believed that Homo heidelbergensis was the ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals.

“We are very fortunate that the Natural History Museum has loaned us Britain’s oldest human fossil,” says Torquay Museum Curator of Collections, Barry Chandler. “Few people have had chance to see it outside of London, so the people of Devon are lucky indeed that such a historic object is now on show in Torquay. This remarkable fossil was discovered during archaeological excavations at Boxgrove, West Sussex in 1993. It is the shinbone from a powerfully built human ancestor species known as Homo heidelbergensis.”

Britain’s First Humans exhibition tells the story of the first pioneering human ancestors that reached this country more than 800,000 years ago, and their descendants, together with the remarkable and exotic animals that they shared Britain with. From terrifying scimitar cats and cave lions to enormous extinct 3 ton rhinos and ancestral bears, Britain’s early humans rubbed shoulders with some formidable animals.

The story of humans in Britain stretches back nearly one million years. At least four different human species have settled here. All faced severe climatic changes and none managed to settle here permanently until today. We are in the latest wave of human occupation, which began about 12,000 years ago.

Torquay Museum’s Kents Cavern human fossil is one of the most important fossils in Europe, as it is not only the oldest human fossil of our species in Britain, but also the oldest in northwest Europe. The fossil, a fragment of jawbone which was discovered by Torquay Museum Curator Arthur Ogilvie in 1927, was dated to 41,000 years old using the latest scientific techniques in 2010. It is thought that the human that it belonged to quite probably shared his Torquay home with Neanderthals, woolly mammoths, scimitar cats, cave bears and hyaenas.

Tickets for Professor Stringer’s talk on Britain’s First Humans at Torquay Museum at 2pm on Wednesday 14th October cost £7.95. Spaces are limited so contact Torquay Museum on 01803 293975 to reserve your tickets.


Team account for We Are South Devon.