Ice Age Europe is a young network of renowned archaeological sites of Ice Age heritage and affiliated museums or visitor centers. It tells the story of Ice Age people in Europe and our shared cultural heritage in space and time.
The independent network was founded in 2013 to raise awareness about the conservation of Ice Age heritage, and to exchange best practice and foster collaboration in many different fields among its members – including research and science, management and governance, along with tourism as well as education.
The Ice Age is one of the most fascinating periods in human history. The foundations of our culture today were established over more than two million years and its relics are among the key testimonies of our cultural heritage and of human development. Some of the most important Ice Age heritage sites are located in Europe, where human remains and rock art have been revealed, as well as campsites and living areas containing many exceptional finds. The importance of the sites is reflected in the fact that an increasing number of them have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Today, the network consists of 20 members from Gibraltar to Croatia, including the Neanderthal Museum in Germany, Museo de Altamira in Spain and Pôle International de la Prehistoire in Dordogne, France.
Who were Neanderthals, and how are we related to them? How do bone flutes sound? What was it like to live in caves? And how do archaeologists find answers to all these questions when there are only so few traces left? Telling stories of times long past and explainig scientific research results to a broad audience is a shared challenge of the network members. Many programs for all ages have been developed and the exchange of tips, tricks and ideas is an important part of the networking. Hugely popular are the hands-on activities and Stone Age Schools, where fire is made, spears are thrown, flint tools are carved or cave paintings replicated. At the Neanderthal Museum, a Neanderthal mannequin in modern business suit mingles with the museum visitors, often discovered only at a second glance, and a photo booth generates self-portraits of visitors morphed with Neanderthal features.
Yet what makes the network and its members truly unique and most fascinating, is the direct link to an archaeological site – from the Neander valley, where the name-giving Neanderthal bones have been found, to the caves with magnificent paintings in Spain and France. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in authentic surroundings and truly travel back in time. Wherever, for conservation reasons, a visit to the original sites is not possible, replicas have been created as close to the original as possible. Equally important are the landscapes that surround the sites. These tell stories about hunters and gatherers, mammoth herds passing by and the many changes that led to the way Europe looks today. Where research is still ongoing, even archaeological digs can be observed.
To visibly connect the network members and to spark the interest, especially of young visitors, a Virtual Ice Age game was created, running on interactive touchscreen terminals at the member sites. It takes visitors on a tour through Ice Age Europe and Europe today on the throw of a dice. The game highlights the differences and similarities as well as the location of the most important Ice Age sites along the way. Visitors may also chat with other sites, and because of the many different languages involved, they can do so with the help of emoticons.
If you would like to know more about the network and its members, please visit www.ice-age-europe.eu.
Katrin Hieke is an archaeologist and museum professional and head of the Ice Age Europe Network Office. You can get in touch via [email protected].
To cite this article:
Hieke, K. (2016) ‘Ice Age Europe – The Story Of A Europe Without Borders’. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 1-2016, 12-13