Neanderthal Man Gets New Home | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 23.11.2003
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Neanderthal Man Gets New Home

The cultural history of the Rhine River region is the focus of a reconceived museum that opens in Bonn this weekend.


The world's oldest man is at home in Bonn

He’s been under wraps for the past six years as his house underwent a massive €77 million renovation, but the original Neanderthal man opened his home once again to visitors this weekend at Bonn’s Rheinisches Landesmuseum.

Of course, for a 40,000-year-old pile of bones, six years isn’t much time to wait – especially for a new museum with striking glass facades that would make any architect gush.

The state museum covers the Rhineland’s 40,000-year history, bringing together artifacts from the area’s period of Roman occupation all the way up to recent works from local artists.

"I would venture to say that this museum is going to become a pilgrimage site in Germany," said Udo Molsberger, director of the regional authority that governs the museum.

Germany's first 'Theme Museum'

The museum has been reconceived as a "Theme Museum" according to Director Frank Zehnde – a first for Germany. Rather than organizing the exhibits in a chronological manner, Zehnde and his curators have put their collection together into nine themed areas including "The Rhineland and the World" and "Power and the Powerful." The themes are intended to provide a comprehensive view of life in the Rhine region.

At the core of the museum’s collection are the remains of the Neanderthal man, which serve as a symbol for the beginnings of the Rhine region’s cultural history some 40,000 years ago. Touch screen multimedia systems also allow visitors to engage with the exhibits. One computer allows visitors to write on a wax tablet as Roman soldiers did nearly 2,000 years ago.

"Our museum isn’t a place where visitors get sucked in at one place and spit out at another," said Zehnder.

A long journey to completion

The reopening comes after numerous delays and budget overruns that led to a doubling of the facility's planned costs. Construction first began in 1998, but soon after planners realized it would be impossible to complete the structure within their budget.

"There were too many surprises," Molsberger told the news agency DPA. Many were unpleasant, including mismanagement and the bankruptcy of firms involved in building the new museum.

But this weekend, that was all a distant memory. "It was worth every euro," Molsberger told reporters.

The Rheinisches Landesmuseum is located at Colmantstrasse 14-18 in Bonn. Opening hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, with extended evening hours until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. The museum is open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.