Neanderthal fun day for families at the Great North Museum

Families are being invited to go Neanderthal to mark a scientific first on Tyneside 150 years ago

A selection of replica skulls will go on display at the Great North Museum
A selection of replica skulls will go on display at the Great North Museum

 

Families are being invited to go Neanderthal to mark a scientific first on Tyneside 150 years ago.

On August 26, 1863, the British Association for the Advancement of Science opened its event in Newcastle - the forerunner of the British Science Festival which starts in the city on September 7.

At the 1863 happening, Prof William King gave a paper on the subject of Neanderthals, which lost out in the evolutionary race with the ancestors of today’s human race.

Prof King served as curator of the Natural History Society’s museum in Newcastle, whose collections are now part of the Great North Museum in the city.

It was at the Newcastle event that Prof King first put forward the scientific name for Neanderthals.

Now the Great North Museum is to mark the 150th anniversary by staging a Neanderthal day tomorrow from 11am-3pm.

Newcastle University archaeologist Jane Webster will be at the family day, together with Durham University PhD students David Clinnick and James Walker, who are involved in a national research project on ancient human occupation in Britain.

They will be showing who the Neanderthals were and how they lived, and visitors can also literally try their hand at cave art. Flint knapper Karl Lee will also demonstrate how to make stone tools at 11.30am and 1.30pm.

The event is being organised by the museum’s Kate Holden, who said: “ The links between the 1863 meeting and the British Science Festival in September, and the Natural History Society and the Great North Museum are fantastic.”

New research is changing the image of Neanderthals, said Kate.

“We are learning a lot more about Neanderthals, who made delicate tools and created art,” she said. “They were our cousins and they were not thick - they were different.

“I hope our event inspires interest in archaeology, especially among young visitors.”

The 150th anniversary was discovered by Peter Davis, Emeritus Professor of Museum Studies at Newcastle University, who is a board member of the Great North Museum.

He said: “ When the 1863 meeting took place it was an exciting time for science. They were breaking a lot of new ground. The scientific name for Neanderthals was introduced to the scientific world .

“That was important and it happened in Newcastle. Neanderthals were remarkable tool makers and social animals who probably lived alongside homo sapiens.

“Although Neanderthal is now sometimes used as a term of abuse, they were not unintelligent, as they have been portrayed.”

This, however, was not the view of Prof King, with the 1863 report saying: “ Prof King feels himself constrained to believe that the thoughts and feelings which (Neanderthals) dealt with never soared above those of the brute.”

We are learning a lot more about Neanderthals, who made delicate tools

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