Light Hall

Rarities of the Museum


Cave bear model (Ursus spelaeus) in the Light Hall of the Natural History Museum

The museum’s largest exhibition room was re-opened in 2003; it contains the museum’s biggest and some of the most valuable items. One of our largest pieces is the skeleton of a Steller’s sea cow. Some of the topics presented in the Light Hall are “Extinct Birds” and “Animals of the Ice Age”.

Animals of the Ice Age

Of great importance for the Brunswick area, are the numerous findings from the ice age that were compiled throughout the century-long collecting tradition of the museum.

Displayed in this exhibition are specimen from two sites, in whose excavation the museum was heavily involved: the “Rübeland caves” in the Harz and a camp of Neanderthals near Salzgitter-Lebenstedt. Cave bears, muskoxen, reindeer, mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, and steppe wisents could all be found in this region during the ice age. In the Light Hall, they are displayed in the form of specimens, models, and fossil materials. The cave bear, its origin, behavior, and extinction are described in great detail.

One of our most significant pieces is the skeleton of Steller’s sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas). Since it was already brought to extinction in 1768, only a few museums worldwide own remains of this animal. The exhibition illustrates the adventurous discovery, the habitat, and the peculiar extinction of these enormous sea cows. Another topic of the Light Hall is “Extinct Birds” featuring taxidermy mounts of a great auk, passenger pigeon, laughing owl, Carolina parakeet, and the skeleton of a moa. Whales are represented in this exhibition by the mandible bones of a bowhead whale, narwhal tusks, baleen hair, and the life-sized model of a dolphin.

Under the African sky – human evolution

Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Neanderthal, the first finding of a hominin fossil, a new exhibition was set up in the Light Hall. Located right next to preparations of our closest relatives the chimpanzees and gorillas, visitors can discover realistic busts of our ancestors. Scientifically accurate reconstructions of Australopithecus afarensis (“Lucy”), Homo rudolfensis, and Homo ergaster are displayed. They represent the milestones of human evolution, which was most notably shaped by the consequences of bipedalism and increased brain size.

Sponsors of these reconstructions are the “Hans und Helga Eckensberger-Stiftung” and “Heimbs Kaffee GmbH”. The latter also sponsored our Homo rudolfensis, who is now affectionately called “Rudi”.