The newly opened Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins presents the remarkable history of human evolution from our earliest ancestors millions of years ago to modern Homo sapiens. The innovative Spitzer Hall combines the most up-to-date discoveries in the fossil record with the latest in genomic science to explore the most profound mysteries of humankind: who we are, where we came from, and what is in store for the future of our species.
Although the human family originated many millions of years ago, we know a great deal about our remarkable past. The rich human fossil record dates back more than six million years, and scientists are finding exciting new specimens all the time.
Around six or seven million years ago, the first members of our human family, Hominidae, evolved in Africa. They spent much of their time in trees, as did their close primate relatives, the ancestors of today's chimpanzees and gorillas.
After several million years of human evolution, only one hominid species remains: Homo sapiens. We have spread across every continent into a wide range of environments.
All species on Earth, including humans, are unique. Yet our intelligence and creativity go well beyond those of any other animal. Humans have long communicated through language, created and appreciated art and music, and invented complex tools that have enabled our species to survive and thrive, though often at the expense of other species.
As we look toward the future, experts debate whether we might alter the course of human evolution. What does the future hold for humanity? It is beyond the reach of science to peer ahead hundreds, thousands, or millions of years with any certainty.
"Lucy" is one of the most complete skeletons found to date from the early hominids that flourished between 4 and 2 million years ago. The skeleton consists of bones from a single individual, presumably female, who stood well under 4 feet tall.
During excavations near Peking (Beijing), China between 1929 and 1937, researchers discovered several partial skulls of the species Homo erectus. These hominids lived around 400,000 years ago and came to be known as Peking Man.
The Mural of Primate Evolution shows vignettes from 50 million years of primate evolution with detailed depictions of early primates and habitats.
Some 300,000 years ago, a new tool-making technique produced a sharp-edged flake of stone. Neanderthals were masters of this technique and made a wide variety of sharp tools.
Kids and Family Program
Step into the state-of-the-art Sackler Educational Laboratory, located in the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, every Saturday and Sunday, for hands-on activities led by scientists.
Meet the curators, Ian M. Tattersall, Division of Anthropology and Co-Curator of the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, and Rob DeSalle, Co-Director of the Molecular Systematics Laboratories, Division of Invertebrate Zoology, and Co-Curator of the Spitzer Hall of Human Origins.
The Museum is deeply grateful to the Hall's lead benefactors Anne and Bernard Spitzer, whose marvelous generosity inspired and made possible the new Spitzer Hall of Human Origins. The Museum also extends its gratitude to The Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation, Inc., Katheryn P. and Thomas L. Kempner, Jr., Arlene and Arnold Goldstein, the Honorable Lucy Wilson Benson, and the Stout Family for their generous support.