I live two blocks from the American Museum of Natural History so I thought I would check out the new Hall of Human Origins that opened this past weekend.
The museum goes back a century, to the days of Theodore Roosevelt, and generations of students and visitors remember the great dinosaur displays and animal dioramas presented there. We can now expect that the 21st century will produce thousands of people who remember looking at the displays in this hall and the simple story they tell.
The first eye-catching mural is a view of early primates, lemur-like creatures. The museum says they appeared around 55 million years ago and are the ancestors of all living primates.
The heart of the exhibit, to my tastes anyway, is a display showing skulls (casts, of course, not the real thing) indicating the human line of evolution over the past 6 million years.
It is well worth studying closely, for it proposes links between the different fossils. The Homo erectus line, I note, is off to the left and does not lead to modern humans.
No link is shown between Australophicus and Homo. We just don't know how, or even if, the two link up. I do wonder if the museum will be able to keep this chart up to date as the linkages between fossils becomes more settled.
There is also a pictorial display of a time line that benefits from the presence of imaginary faces, but omits the links between them.
I'll mull over the value of the museum's display tomorrow.