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The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals: Meet the Krapina prehistoric man

The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals is located near the archeological site Hušnjakovo, which we wrote about in our last article. The building in which the museum is located is designed to resemble the habitat of Krapina’s prehistoric man – a semi-cave. The proportions and facade of the building were designed after careful study and analysis of the Krapina semi-cave, which no longer exists today. The museum building blends into the surrounding landscape between two clearly visible hills. 

The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals
The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals

Of particular interest is the stream that is a canal run under the building; its murmur symbolizes the passage of time, and crossing over part of the stream before entering the museum will remind you of crossing the line between the present and the distant past.

The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals greeted us at the beginning with a documentary

The first thing we saw when we appeared in front of the museum was a glass wall that mirrored the surrounding forest. We could immediately sense that by passing through it we would enter another world. At the entrance, on the left side there is a reception where we could buy tickets (ticket for adults is 60 kn) and a toilet for visitors. The receptionist then instructed us to look to the right where we could see the set seats facing the large projection screen.

The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals offers you a short documentary about the life and customs of the Krapina prehistoric man in order to follow the story of each exhibit you will see in continuation as easily as possible. The film depicts the daily lives of the people who lived at the time; from living in caves, making tools and weapons and body covers, hunting and preparing food, all the way to funeral customs and mourning for deceased family members. We also had the opportunity to see a scene in which one of the hunters experienced an encounter with a wild animal that severely injured him. After that, the way in which the wounds were treated was shown.

Depiction of everyday life of a prehistoric human in The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals
Depiction of everyday life of a prehistoric human

The museum contains several collections: paleontological, geological, varia, a collection of sculptures and a collection of experimental archeology

After watching the film, we went sightseeing, and the first stop was the reconstruction of a pharmacy from the time of Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger (Croatian geologist, paleontologist and anthropologist who is considered one of the founders of world paleoanthropology) in which the first bone remains were protected.

In August 1899, Krapina teacher Rehorić sent Kramberger strange bones that he found.
In August 1899, Krapina: Teacher Rehorić sent Kramberger strange bones that he found.

Right next to the pharmacy there is a room in which was simulated Krapina of that time, important moments of the history of science were recorded and described on the basis of which the theory of gradual genesis and development of nature was set to finally reach Darwin’s theory of evolution. 


Here we had the opportunity to see various posters of famous works of art depicting people and their skeletons, studies of human bones and computer-generated depictions of hundreds of found remains  (human and animal bones). This whole area is quite darkened to make the visitor feel as if he has stepped into the past of a cave.

Partial human skull
Partial human skull

After this historical introduction that gradually prepared us for the exhibits that await us, we entered a slightly brighter space dominated by the gray color of the untreated walls. In this part, we first came across a geological collection, so we looked at geological maps and drawings, minerals and rocks found in Krapina and other parts of Croatia. After that, we saw a stunningly colorful sculpture that rose all the way to the ceiling of the museum – it is a display of DNA.

DNA sculpture in The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals
DNA sculpture

Afterwards we came to the part of the museum reserved for objects that cannot be classified in some other museum collections, so they found themselves in this one called “Varia”. Here are mostly exhibited objects that present a particular historical period and activities. At the beginning of the collection you will first notice the skeleton of a large dinosaur from the Cretaceous era behind which is a painted wall depicting some terrestrial species that lived in that period. Furthermore, on the walls you have the opportunity to look at the fossil remains of animals from the Tyrian and Jurassic ages such as ammonites. We were most impressed by the dinosaur skeletons in whose presence we felt so small and unimportant that we began to think about what it would be like if we had the opportunity to live in an age when these giants walked the Earth.

Dinosaur skeleton

Then we come to the area of  The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals​​ where we can finally see the sculptures that show how man has evolved since his beginnings. First we pass a monkey, then we have the opportunity to look at the hairy Ardipithecus ramidus followed by Australopithecus which first begins to remind us of today’s man. After that we follow other sculptures that are more and more developed and more and more reminiscent of us – the last sculpture depicts Homo erectus holding a primitive weapon in his hands. At the end of the “procession” of prehistoric people, we saw a reconstruction of everyday cave life, a scene we had the opportunity to see in the documentary from the beginning of the tour.

Sculptures of prehistoric people - Evolution
Sculptures of prehistoric people - Evolution

The last rooms of The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals showed us what certain parts of the body and bones of prehistoric man looked like, and to make it easier to understand how human evolution went, we looked at an exhibit showing the skeleton and body of today’s man compared to prehistoric man. The appearance of prehistoric man differs from today’s man most if we look at the bones of the head (straight and elongated scalp, oblique forehead, wide nose, strong arches, more pronounced cheekbones, etc.) and the height and width of the whole body – prehistoric man was wider and much shorter than average man of today.

A comparison of modern and prehistoric man in The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals
A comparison of modern and prehistoric man in The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals

In the next room, we looked at the tools and weapons that prehistoric man made and used in hunting and everyday life. Of particular interest are the sharp stones that were used as a knife or tied to tree branches to make a spear used to hunt. In addition, in this space we found a small collection of art objects, including the well-known depiction of Venus. Given that we’ve heard so much about this little statuette in school we couldn’t help but wonder how small it actually is. We learned a long time ago (and had to write it on the exams) that the statuette is no bigger than 10 centimeters, but according to its importance and stories, we somehow expected an object of a more imposing size. We can only say that our little Venus was truly cute!


And finally, if you find yourself in Krapina – The Museum of Krapina Neanderthals is an unavoidable tourist destination!

Your CTC Team, A. M.

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