Ancestors Gallery

Ancestors Gallery

See Britain's oldest modern human fossil in an exhibition that charts the arrival of the first humans to set foot in Devon 450,000 years ago.

We trace the human occupation of the region down through the millennia, from the elusive Neanderthals that used Kent's Cavern prehistoric caves around 40,000 years ago, through to the first modern humans to arrive in Britain.

'Ancestors' explores the changing landscape of South Devon, often harsh, sometimes icebound, but always supporting an incredible range of long extinct animals, sharing thier world with our earliest ancestors. The exhibition displays the remains of scimitar cats, woolly mammoths, lions and cave bears, all discovered in the local cave systems.

The renowned human evolution expert and television presenter, Professor Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum, returned to the Museum Britain's oldest human fossil - the world-famous 36,000 year-old ancient human jawbone discovered during archaeological excavations at Kents Cavern in 1927 especially for the exhibition. The Natural History Museum spent a year analysing the jawbone to establish whether it could be the only Neanderthal remains ever discovered in mainland Britain.

Our new exhibit in the Ancestors gallery enables visitors to have a go on the ‘Forensics CSI’ table and explore how scientists, from local hero William Pengelly to the Natural History Museum’s Chris Stringer, investigate prehistoric bones and other finds, as well as the science behind the dating of Northern Europe’s oldest human specimen – the famous Kents Cavern jawbone, on display at Torquay Museum along with other amazing prehistoric finds from the area.


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