Starting with a cast skull, artist John Gurche builds layers of muscle, fat, and skin to create hyper-realistic busts of human ancestors featured in the new David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
This 30,000-year-old handprint from Chauvet Cave in France, made by mixing pigment with saliva inside the mouth and blowing the mixture onto a cave wall, is an emblem of the deep history of human creativity.
Some cave paintings were likely made as shown -- by mixing pigment with saliva inside the mouth and blowing the mixture onto a cave wall.
Handaxes -- multipurpose tools used to chop wood, butcher animals, and make other tools -- dominated early human technology for more than a million years. Left to right: Africa (1.6 million years old), Asia (1.1 million years old), and Europe (250,000 years old).
Part of an ancient necklace, these 30,000-year-old shells from Cro-Magnon, France represent some of the earliest evidence of humans wearing jewelry. Some shells have traces of ocher, a clue they were colored with pigment.
Early Homo sapiens created these symbolic objects between 60,000 and 30,000 years ago. Using natural materials and creativity, they combined animal and human features into fantastical creatures and fashioned instruments for making music.
The earliest evidence for controlled use of fire comes from the 790,000-year-old site of Gesher Benot Ya'aquov, Israel, as depicted in this illustration.
Five fossil human skulls show how the shape of the face and braincase of early humans changed over the past 2.5 million years. (from left to right: Australopithecus africanus, 2.5 million years old; Homo rudolfensis, 1.9 million years old; Homo erectus, ~ 1 million years old; Homo heidelbergensis, ~350,000 years old; Homo sapiens, ~ 4,800 years old)
A new hall at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History shows the milestones in the origin of human beings and lets you look into the eyes of your distant ancestors.