In 1927, The Field Museum commissioned sculptor Frederick Blaschke to construct eight large dioramas in the Hall of the Stone Age of Western Europe, which was planned for completion in time for "A Century of Progress Exposition" to take place in May 1933.
Much of what was to be displayed originated from a 1927 expedition to Europe led by Henry Field. Mr. Blaschke was part of that expedition and constructed models of Neanderthal skulls and bodies based on existing specimens of the time.
After the expedition, and over a year of work, the first of two Neanderthal family dioramas were installed in 1929. The dioramas were opened to the public on June 8th of that year. These exhibits were originally displayed in the Hall of Historical Geology, which was located on the Museum's second floor. At the time, it was the only restoration of its kind in the world, and was considered to be a huge success. On May 30th,1933, the Hall of Prehistoric Man (also known as the Hall of the Stone Age and Old World) opened with a series of eight prehistoric scenes. This exhibit was located in Hall C, on the ground floor of the Museum.
The exhibit remained mostly unchanged into the the 1970's, other than a few minor adjustments in the 1950's. However, in the early 1970's, The Field Museum began talk about overhauling, restoring, and replacing exhibits. In 1972 it was deemed that five of the Neanderthal figures were scientifically inaccurate. These Neanderthal figures were replaced with updated ones made by Museum artist Joseph Krstolich. Again, in 1985, the exhibit was reworked due to scientific inaccuracies. The Hall of Prehistoric Man exhibit began disassembly in 1988, marking the end of an era that extended for over five decades. This included the disassembly of the Neanderthal Family diorama as well as dioramas depicting Mas d'Azil cave in France (also called Azillian Boar Hunt); Aurignacian Cave Art (Gargas cave, France); Chellean scene in northern France; Neolithic Sun Worship; Solutrean sculptor; Swiss Lake Dwellers; Cap Blanc Rock Shelter and the skeleton of Magdallenian girl.
Many generations of adults remember coming to the Museum and being transported back to a time when people were living in caves. The legacy of the Neanderthal dioramas is not only a reminder of the immense interest in prehistoric life, but also an example of how anthropologists are constantly unlocking new secrets in human evolution.
Field Museum Resources & Publications
- Annual Report of the Director to the Board of Trustees for the year 1928, p. 424
- Annual Report of the Director to the Board of Trustees for the year 1929, pp. 13, 22, 184, 332, 337, 400, 430
- Annual Report of the Director to the Board of Trustees for the year 1931, pp. 19, 30, 160, 165. 245.
- Annual Report of the Director to the Board of Trustees for the year 1933, pp. 13, 16, 24, 42, 60, 99, 110, 254, 390
- Annual Report of the Director to the Board of Trustees for the year 1962, pp. 22, 109
- Annual Report of the Director to the Board of Trustees for the year 1971-1972. p. 30
Books and Fieldiana
- Baerman, Henry F. 1971. Frederick Blaschke: Recreator and Preserver of Life by Henry F. Baerman. Field Research Projects, Coconut Grove, Miami, Florida.
- Braidwood, Robert J. 1975. Prehistoric Men. Glenview, Ill: Scott, Foresman.
- Chicago Natural History Museum, and Henry Field. 1933. Prehistoric Man, Hall of the Stone Age of the Old World. Chicago: Field museum of natural history.
- Farrington, Oliver C. 1929. Neaderthal (Mousterian) Man. Geology Leaflet 11. Field Museum of Natural History. Chicago.
- Field, Henry. 1927. "The Early History of Man: With Special Reference to the Cap-Blanc Skeleton." Anthropology Leaflet. (26): 1-19.
- Nash, Stephen E., and Gary M. Feinman. 2003. Curators, Collections, and Contexts: Anthropology at the Field Museum, 1893-2002. Chicago, Ill: Field Museum of Natural History.
- Farrington, Oliver C. "History of Field Museum." Field Museum News, vol. 2, no. 2, February 1931, p. 4.
- Field, Henry. "Stone Age Hall, Soon to Open, Will Show Ancestors of Human Race." Field Museum News, vol. 4, no. 7, July 1933, p. 1.
- Riggs, Elmer S. "A Life-Size Restoration of the Three-Toed Horse, Mesohippus." Field Museum News, vol. 1, no. 8, August 1930, pp. 1,4.
- Simms, Stephen C. "Exhibits to Visualize 1,500,000,000 Years of Life." Field Museum News, vol. 1, no. 4, April 1930, pp. 3-4.
- Walsten, David. M. "The Legacy of Carl Akeley" and "Table of Contents." Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin vol. 57, no. 1, January 1986, p. 8.
- "Welcome to the Stone Age: The Museum's Stone Age Hall Revisited." Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, vol. 44, no. 7, July/August 1973, pp. 5-11.