‘A Brief History of Humankind’ at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem


This exhibition, inspired by Yuval Noah Harari’s bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, invites the public to a journey exploring some of the crucial moments in the history of humankind through pivotal objects from the Museum’s encyclopedic collections. Spanning a timeline of hundreds of thousands of years, the items on view include archaeological objects dating to the dawn of civilization shown side-by-side with cutting-edge works of contemporary art.

'A Brief History of Humankind' at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The exhibition’s narrative, articulated as three major chapters, revolves on three significant turning points in the evolution of human civilization: the Cognitive Revolution — the advent of language and communication, which enabled Homo sapiens to survive and form complex societies; the Agricultural Revolution — humanity’s first steps towards the evolution of settled civilization, laying the foundations for modern society; and the Industrial Revolution — a time of rapid scientific and technological developments that ushered in the contemporary era.

Within this framework, the exhibition touches on some critical existential questions, such as: Why did Homo sapiens survive and gain mastery of the world? Why do we need laws and why were coins invented? How did the industrial revolution influence our concepts of time and space? And — perhaps most intriguing — what does the future hold in store for humankind? The scientific revolution set in motion a process that radically improved the living conditions of the human species, but what will the archaeologists of tomorrow find and think about our present?

Removed from their natural historical context in the galleries, the objects on view bear vivid testimony to the most important phases in the evolution of humanity, their unique qualities shedding light on universal phenomena. The objects’ significance is amplified, emphasized, and reinterpreted by their juxtaposition with contemporary artworks, creating new, thought-provoking connections that invite us to reflect on our past in the hope of gaining a better understanding of our present and our future.

The exhibition will run until December 26, 2015.

For more information visit the exhibition website.

Source: Israel Museum [May 05, 2015]


  1. This exhibition seems to be the Xth repetition of the conventional just-so ideas on human evolution & language origins: our ancestors became more & more bipedal when they moved from the African forests to the savannas. All fossil, paleo-environmental, physiological, nutritional etc.data, however, suggest that human ancestors during the Ice Ages (Pleistocene Homo) did not run over open plains (sweating water + salt = scarce in savannas) as often assumed in popular & even “scientific”views on human evolution, but simply followed the African & Eurasian coasts & rivers (already probably 1.8 mill.yrs ago at least as far as Java, Georgia, Algeria & Turkana), beach-combing, diving & wading bipedally for littoral, shallow aquatic & waterside foods, rich in brain-specific nutrients (e.g. DHA), google e.g. researchGate marc verhaegen, academia.edu marcverhaegen