Ice Age at the mall


The Ice Age Panorama exhibition at shopping centres depicts life during the Ice Age. It’s an effective way of letting the general public in on the knowledge gained from 30 years of research into the last Ice Age.

“Which animal was the first to be domesticated?” That’s one of the questions in a quiz offered to the public at the Ice Age Panorama travelling exhibition (answer: the wolf). The exhibition will be visiting some ten Swiss shopping centres in 2018. It’s the brain child of the Archaeozoology Laboratory at the University of Neuchâtel, thanks to support from Agora, a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) programme that encourages interactions between researchers and the public.

“After more than 30 years of research, especially at Magdalenian archaeological sites (the last phase of the European Upper Palaeolithic, around 15,000 years ago, ed.) in the canton of Neuchâtel, we wanted to share what we’ve learned with the public,” says Denise Leesch, an archaeologist at the University of Neuchâtel. “It’s particularly timely now, as this period of history is subject to many clichés, such as the myth of total harmony with nature, the infamous ‘palaeo’ diet based on lean meat and vegetables, and some popular films that show humans and dinosaurs living together.”

In fact, say the scientists, research findings show that during the Magdalenian, food was 99.9 per cent based on meat and animal fat. Moreover, during this era, the region that corresponds to Switzerland had a cold and dry climate, devoid of trees and plants. As for dinosaurs, they had already disappeared well before the appearance of Homo sapiens 200,000 years ago. “Our objective is to show the public the environmental and cultural context in which these well-networked populations evolved,” says Werner Müller, an archaeozoologist at the University of Neuchâtel. “These people didn’t necessarily fit the archetype of macho hunters.”

These explanations and many more are displayed on information panels at the Ice Age Panorama. “The public is not all that familiar with the chronology of human history and knows very little about the Ice Age”, says Denise Leesch. “But we’ve noticed enormous interest across all ages and social classes: at each location, our exhibition has attracted more the 700 visitors, and 300 of them take part in the quiz and interact with us. It’s a very rewarding experience for us as well.”

Upcoming dates

  • 13.08 - 18.08.2018: Jura Centre, Bassecourt (JU)
  • 20.08 - 25.08.2018: Gäupark, Egerkingen (SO)
  • 24.09 - 29.09.2018: Belair Centre, Yverdon (VD)


Werner Müller
Archaeozoology Laboratory
University of Neuchâtel
Av. de Bellevaux 51
CH-2000 Neuchâtel
Tel. +41-32-718 31 10