Humans have been present in Europe for around one million years. This exhibition brings together artefacts and animal fossils from some of the most important Ice Age sites in Europe, including the earliest flint tools left by the first humans to reach Northern Europe (almost one million years ago), to spectacular new finds made at excavations at Les Varines this summer. Meet the mysterious people who made these tools, and the animals which shared their world.

Early tools

Early tools -›

This stone tool was found at Happisburgh, Norfolk, England. Stone tools excavated from Happisburgh show that people reached Northern Europe almost one million years ago, much earlier than was previously thought. Stone tool from Happisburgh, Norfolk.  On loan from the British Museum. 

Early animal remains

Early animal remains -›

The earliest humans to travel into northern Europe lived alongside creatures that today seem exotic and dangerous - hyenas, sabre-toothed cats and rhinoceros.  This is alower jaw of an extinct rhinoceros, Stephanorhinus hundsheimensis. Found at Trimingham, Norfolk, England. On loan from the Natural History Museum. © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.


The bone heaps at La Cotte de St Brelade

The bone heaps at La Cotte de St Brelade -›

Excavations at La Cotte de St Brelade exposed two exceptional piles of bones, made up of the bones of mammoth and woolly rhino.   This is the skull of a mammoth from La Cotte de St.Brelade, Jersey. This specimen has not been seen since it was excavated over 30 years ago, as it was sealed in a plaster and foam jacket to protect it. Conservators have carefully peeled away the jacket to show this spectacular skull. 

Pine cones (Pinus and Picea)

Pine cones (Pinus and Picea) -›

This pine cone is almost one million years old, but is perfectly preserved. It was excavated from Happisburgh in Norfolk, and shows that humans lived near pine woodland, and that the climate was probably similar to central Europe today.  Pine cone from Happisburgh, Norfolk. On loan from the Natural History Museum.

Sharing a landscape

Sharing a landscape -›

Around half a million years ago, a new European human species - Homo heidelbergensis  - reached Europe. They hunted and lived alongside dangerous competitors like bears and lions. This is an upper forelimb (humerus) of a bear, found at Boxgrove, Sussex, England.  On loan from the Natural History Museum. © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

Tools from Boxgrove

Tools from Boxgrove -›

This sort of tool – the handaxe – was made by a new wave of people reaching Europe from around 600 000 years ago - Homo heidelbergensis. Handaxes were used for butchery, but could also be reworked, resharpened and adapted as multipurpose tools.  Handaxe from Boxgrove, Sussex, England. Hundreds of handaxes have been excavated from Boxgrove and date to almost half a million years ago. On loan from the British Museum.

Animals for food

Animals for food -›

Animal bones not only show what people ate, but how they ate it: many animals bones from Boxgrove show marks left by stone tools, or were smashed open to get at the marrow inside. This is a pelvis of extinct rhinoceros, Stephanorhinus sp., showing marks left by stone tools.  On loan from the Natural History Museum. © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

Ice Age animals

Ice Age animals -›

Neanderthals came to Jersey for over 200 thousand years. During this time, climate shifted from warm (like today) to extremely cold (Ice Age) - changes which affected the animal population, as well as people. Neanderthals were able to adapt to these changes, and survive alongside fierce predators, like this wolf from La Cotte de St.Brelade.  Lower forelimb of a wolf, Canis lupus. 

Neanderthal tools

Neanderthal tools -›

Around 300 000 years ago, handaxes were replaced by a new way of making stone tools, called Levallois flaking. This allowed Neanderthals to control the size and shape of the flakes they could produce, and to pack a transformable toolkit for travelling.  This Levallois point was found at Piégu, Brittanny. On loan from CReAAH, Université de Rennes. 

Neanderthal tools from Jersey

Neanderthal tools from Jersey -›

Many Neanderthal tools found in Jersey are made of flint, a stone which is not available in the Island. Neanderthals travelled here with the tools they needed to live and hunt. Many were made of flint collected from the floodplain of the Channel River valley. As they travelled, Neanderthals carefully resharpened their tools, recycling the precious flint.  This is a heavily reworked flint point found at La Cotte de St.Brelade.

Art and decoration

Art and decoration -›

Some of the last Neanderthals seem to decorated themselves with pendants, and maybe painted themselves, but modern humans expressed themselves in many different ways. They carved bone and antler objects, painted cave walls, and adorned themselves with beads and pendants.  This antler “Baton” with carvings of fish and a stallion, found at La Madeleine, France.  On loan from the British Museum. ©Trustees of the British Museum.