The Schöningen Spears – Man and Hunting 400,000 years ago

Ministry for Science and Culture, Hanover
Braunschweig and Hanover
November 2007 – July 2008
800 sqm

Design and production of the touring exhibition (all HOAI phases, s.a.).
Exhibition design, graphics and light, design and media production, technical planning, conceptual collaboration, production management, cost controlling

IGLHAUT + von GROTE Ausstellungsgestaltung und Design / The Schöningen Spears – Man and Hunting 400,000 years ago
Project text:

An international sensation had been uncovered near Schöningen in Lower Saxony: archaeologists found eight well-preserved wooden spears from the Palaeolithic Period, which provide evidence of homo erectus and his considerable technical skills. Due to unfavourable preservation conditions, wooden implements from this period are extremely rare. The Schöningen spears are among the earliest traces of settlement in Europe and are now approximately 400,000 years old. They provide sensational new insights into the story of man’s development more than 400,000 years ago.

The huge technical and conservational demands made on the presentation of the objects also determined the exhibition design and its technology: the wooden Palaeolithic weapons were presented in cooled, sterile display cases – something like an aquarium. As it was conceived as a touring exhibition, the development of a modular system that could be used within a variety of ground plans represented a further challenge. The exhibition put the visitor in the position of an explorer in search of foreign cultures, for as historian David Lowenthal once said: the past is a foreign country – and this foreign country must be discovered and explored like an unknown planet before we can reconstruct its life and culture. As a leading design concept, therefore, the image of the voyage of discovery was translated into the context of space travel and a science-fiction space opera, so underlining the picture of mankind 400,000 years ago as the discovery of something sensational and extraordinary. Visitors to the exhibition took off from the earth on a journey to investigate their own pre-history.

The exhibition design cited ideas and pictorial motifs from the world of science fiction and created a futuristic atmosphere similar to that of a space ship. This visual metaphor permeated the whole exhibition on the different levels of scenography, graphics and media, and provided the starting point of its design. Visitors entered a research centre containing different rooms for observation, documentation and experimentation, thus starting out on the imagined voyage of discovery.