Wednesday, March 2, 2016

San Diego Museum of Man, 2/19/2016

The central exhibit of the Panama-California Exposition in 1915-16 was "The Story of Man through the Ages." Early man fossils (and casts of ones in museums) were gathered from Alaska, Siberia, Africa, the Philippines, Peru, and Europe resulting in the most comprehensive physical anthropology exhibit ever assembled. When the expo was over, a group of visionary San Diego citizens created the San Diego Museum Association to retain the collection and preserve/promote other museums in the area.

Housed in the California Building, on the Register of Historic Places, was built for the expo in 1915. It served as the entrance to the exposition. The building has an impressive facade as shown below and the iconic 3-stage tower is a symbol of San Diego. 

Anthropology is the focus of the museum. There are both permanent and temporary exhibits on display. Maya: Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth showcases huge majestic monuments and ancient artifacts from the Mayan world. There are both zoomorphs (boulders shaped as a mythical animal with bas-relief carvings and inscriptions as well as free-standing monuments in the exhibit dating to 780 AD.

Proceeding to the second floor is the Footsteps through Time exhibit that explores four million years of human development revealed through scientific discoveries. This is an exhibit of the largest known primate (that lived 9 million to 400,000 years ago in SE Asia). Remains have been found along with homo erectus (a predecessor of Homo sapiens). They were 10' tall and weighed about 1,200 pounds...double the size of a modern-day male gorilla. 

There are lots of interactive displays like this one where you can compare the size of your hands and feet to those of various primates. 

This display of skeletons of a chimpanzee (top), mountain gorilla (lower center), and man (left and right) shows the similarities and differences of the species. 

The Footsteps through Time exhibits has extensive models comparing modern man to early hominids including the genetic similarities found in our DNA.

The Time Tunnel is a fascinating exhibit that documents the history of modern man (homo sapiens) over the last 40,000 years starting with the first rock art (40,000 years ago), early musical instruments and the like to modern technological milestones. 

The Human Lab has interactive displays the wonders of the human mind...very interesting.

The Race: Are We So Different? Exhibit explores the folklore and assumptions we make about racial identity and its connection to genetics and biology. For example, sunlight and vitamins determine our skin color, not race. There were many interactive stations in this exhibit.

A surprising number of mummies are on display in the Mummies: Ancient Egypt, Mexico, and Peru exhibit. Many of the mummies found in tombs in Egypt are headless due to the theft of valuable jewels and amulets. This mummy and the child sarcophagus date to 305-30 BC. The two Egyptian mummies date  664-343 BC. 

The adult mummy was found in Mexico and is approximately 750 years old. The child mummy is Peruvian and 550 years old. 

These shrunken heads (yes, they are real!) are from the tropical rain forest of Ecuador or Peru. During intertribal warfare, the heads of enemies killed in battle were shrunk and worn as a necklace to give the wearer the power of the slain warrior. The practice was banned in the last century.

Native Americans, the Kumeyaay, lived in this region of the American Southwest. They were highly skilled basket weavers and pottery makers. There are multiple displays about their lifestyle with various artifacts for hunting, entertainment (music and games), etc. 

Also displayed are Zuni kachina dolls. 

Admission to the museum is $12.50/adults; $10/seniors. Tower Tours can also be purchased in conjunction with museum tickets at $22.50/adults; $20.00/seniors. The tower guided tours were sold out when we were there, so we did not have the opportunity to see the panoramic views from the top.

We really enjoyed the display at this museum. It has a very interesting array of interactive displays about us (homo sapiens) and our evolutionary roots. For additional information about the museum, hours of operation, etc., check out their website

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