Ottawa

Less brawn, more brains: New exhibition aims to dispel Neanderthal myths

Neanderthals have long been portrayed as big, dumb brutes — but a new exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History sets out to bust some of those myths. 

Our ancient cousins were more civilised than we thought

A new exhibit called Neanderthal opened Friday at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau. It runs until January 2020. (Martin Meissner/Associated Press)

Neanderthals have long been portrayed as big, dumb brutes and mindless, monosyllabic meat-eaters.

But a new exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History sets out to bust some of those myths. 

Simply titled Neanderthal, the exhibition opened Friday at the Gatineau, Que., museum where it will run until Jan. 26, 2020.

"The exhibit not only deconstructs those falsehoods but it also helps us understand where they came from and the environment in which they were born," in-house curator Janet Young told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

They were more like us than we originally thought.- Janet Young

The exhibit shows less knuckle-dragging and club waving, and more about how ​​​​Neanderthals — who lived for 300,000 years but disappeared 30,000 years ago — were skilled artisans and strategic hunters, capable of complex thoughts.

"The stone tools they created are super sharp. They used glue to put their tools together. They buried their dead," Young said.

"They were more like us than we originally thought."

The new exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Nature 'deconstructs' stereotypes around Neanderthals, says in-house curator Janet Young. (Nikola Solic/Reuters)

It features a reconstruction of an archeological dig, works of art, and rarely seen fossils.

There's also an axe made out of rock crystal and a reconstruction of a Neanderthal woman dressed up in modern-day clothing.

A moulding of a Neanderthal man face displayed for the Neanderthal exhibition at the Musee de l'Homme in Paris. It's on loan to the Museum of History and opens today at its only North American stop in Gatineau. (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images)

The exhibition was created by the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle – Musée de l'Homme in France and adapted by the Canadian Museum of History.

Ottawa-Gatineau is its only North American stop.

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