The Museum’s West Wing houses our fabulous anthropology exhibit, Footsteps Through Time: Four Million Years of Human Evolution. This core exhibit—featuring touchable replicas of early humans and associated items—officially opened to the public on February 9, 2002.

Photo by Stacy Keck.

This compelling exhibit is the only one of its kind on the West Coast. It transports visitors on a fascinating 5-million-year journey through time, spotlighting the major anthropological finds relating to human evolution. Footsteps Through Time represents a milestone in the Museum’s history. It is especially significant as it reflects the Museum’s original mission—to display the life and history of humankind—while inspiring relevant connections to our modern-day visitors.

The Hominin Hall showcases a variety of intriguing dioramas, including a Neandertal burial from more than 60,000 years ago depicted exactly as it was discovered by archaeologists, a Cro-Magnon exhibit featuring a replica of Chauvet Cave in France (home of the world’s oldest cave paintings), and a touchable reproduction of Kenyanthropus platyops, a find by the renowned archaeologists Meave and Louise Leakey.

This exhibit offers an in-depth and intriguing look at human evolution, according to the Museum’s Emeritus Curator of Physical Anthropology, Rose Tyson. “This exhibit represents the most comprehensive physical anthropology display that the Museum has showcased since the 1915 Panama-California Exposition,” says Tyson, who was with the Museum of Man for 30 years.

Photo by Stacy Keck.

The exhibit was painstakingly designed to engage visitors into thinking about age-old questions about time, genetics, and the environment. The exhibit is unique in that guests are invited to touch nearly all of its contents.

One section of the exhibit offers visitors a chance to compare the skeletons of modern-day Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthals, encouraging them to to think about how humans adapt and the effect different environments have on human adaptation.

Visitors can continue their exploration of human development and variation in the nearby Race: Are We So Different? gallery.

In addition to a $1.95-million grant from the National Science Foundation, the exhibit received $400,000 in support from local sponsors, such as the Parker Foundation, the James Copley Foundation, the Ackerman Family Foundation, the Charles and Ruth Billingsley Foundation, the Russell James Miller Memorial Fund-JH Johnson Foundation at The San Diego Foundation, and the Dr. Seuss Fund at The San Diego Foundation.

Photo by Stacy Keck.

This project integrates the talents of all Museum departments, many renowned scientists, and a host of specialists to bring forth a tactile and exciting product for an international community. We invite our visitors to share in the excitement of this monumental program to gain a better understanding of the future by expanding our knowledge of the past.

The Primate Hall portion of the exhibit closed May 2016 and the Human Lab and Time Tunnel portions of the exhibit closed November 2016.

This project is supported by the National Science Foundation and Invitrogen.