Human remnants found at the Spy Cave (Belgium) in 1886.
1. Paleolithic Era

Our objects and specimens from the Palaeolithic era (the Early Stone Age) come from sites in the Meuse basin and Hainaut (Belgium) and Semliki (Democratic Republic of the Congo). A tooth found in Ishango (DRC) is the oldest known human fossil, at between 2.5 and 2 million years old, and belonged to an early species of human. It was also the first fossil of the ‘Homo’ taxon to be found west of the Rift Valley.

The majority of the Belgian Neanderthal fossils also belong to this collection: the Neanderthals from Spy, La Naulette, Fond-de-Fôret, and Goyet – in total more than 200 fossils. We also have the remains of anatomically modern humans from the Upper Palaeolithic, from both Belgium and Ishango. The latter constitute the largest collection of fossils of anatomically modern humans from the Late Stone Age in Central Africa. During excavations undertaken by our institute, tens of thousands of artefacts were found from the different cultures of the Middle Palaeolithic (Mousterian) and Upper Palaeolothic eras (Aurignacian, Gravettian, and Magdalenian) in Belgium, as well as from the Late Stone Age in Central Africa. There are also several pieces of artwork from the Upper Palaeolithic period, including portable art, jewellery, and mysterious objects. 

Ax found in the mines of Spiennes (Belgium)
2. Mesolithic and Neolithic

The Mesolithic and the Neolithic eras are also represented in our collections. We have the remains of several individuals from the Early Mesolithic period (from Malonne and Waulsort in Belgium) and several hundred remains of individuals from the Middle Neolithic period. Recently, individuals from this period were found in the Meuse basin, in cave burials (often collective graves). The Neolithic collections come mostly from Early Neolithic sites in Hesbaye (Darion and Oleye) and the mines at Spiennes (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), in Belgium.


Fractured femur from the collection of individuals from the Early Middle Ages. They were found at the cemetery of Ciply (Belgium)
3. Historical Periods (Dating From the First Written Records)

Our anthropological collections include individuals dating from Roman times to the 20th century. The most impressive Roman collection comes from the early Roman necropolis in Oudenburg, which comprises more than 200 tombs of non-cremated individuals. Our institute houses around a dozen collections dating from the Early Middle Ages (from Merovingian cemeteries in Ciply, Cuesmes, Torgny, and Braives) and many groups of individuals dating from the Late Middle Ages (Ronse, Nivelles, and especially Coxyde, with over a thousand individuals). We also have many collections from after the Middle Ages, including a large number from the Brussels region. 

Human skeleton
4. Osteological Reference Collections

Our reference collections consist of a small collection of individuals with very different geographical origins (Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, and America) and a group of individuals of known age and gender (ISC = Identified Skeletal Collection). The Schoten collection consists of around fifty individuals that died during the 20th century. For each of these, we have information on gender, age at death, profession, and occasionally cause of death, which makes them ideal for testing and developing new anthropological methods. 

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