Exposition Origines, les récits du monde


stories of the World

Permanent course

Where do we come from? All societies have felt the need to explain the origins of life, including the beginnings of humanity and its evolution. The exhibition Origins - Stories of the World explores this question by transporting visitors through time, from the appearance of humans to that of life itself and all the way back to the formation of the universe.

Two approaches to the question of origins run side by side: one based on palaeontology, the natural sciences, physics and chemistry; the other based on human sciences and illustrated through ethnographic collections and contemporary works. Engaged in a constant conversation throughout the exhibition, the two approaches become profoundly complementary.

The mammoth of Choulans

Discovered in 1859 on the Montée de Choulans in Lyon, and still fresh in the memories of visitors to the former Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (i.e. natural history museum), this mammoth lived at a time when Alpine glaciers still covered Lyon.

© Musée des Confluences
Montage du mammouth de Choulans

The exhibition route


First steps towards our origins

As soon as they enter, visitors are greeted by three female hominids. These three women are the representatives of three human lines that coexisted until some 25,000 years ago: Homo neanderthalensis, Homo sapiens, and Homo floresiensis. At the beginning and the end of the exhibition, they ask questions about our place and our future in this fourteen-billion-year history.

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Premiers pas vers nos origines

The adaptation of species

Life changes on its own and the environment contributes to the evolution of living beings. Alongside the pterosaurs, the Camarasaurus skeleton shows how species have adapted: the laying of amniotic eggs allowed certain species to leave the marine environment, gradually leading to the emergence of mammals.

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L’adaptation des espèces

Life and water

The story of our origins goes back to the first traces of life on Earth, trapped in the depths of the oceans. In order for breathing to appear in the history of life, bacteria were needed to produce oxygen through photosynthesis. In the earliest times, it was trapped at the bottom of the oceans in the form of iron oxides. This rock, known as 'banded iron' and some 2.1 billion years old, carries the first traces of life on Earth.

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La vie et l’eau

The formation of the Earth and the universe

At the end of the exhibition, ever more accurate instruments used to measure time and space are displayed opposite the traditional Chinese pantheon. They reflect humanity's perpetual quest to better understand the origins of the universe and attempt to explain the workings of its evolution.

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La formation de la Terre et de l’Univers

Conquering time and space

As it measures time and space, humanity is discovering an ever vaster universe. The development of our scientific knowledge also shapes our societies' perceptions.

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Conquérir le temps et l’espace
Scientific Committee
  • Roland Bacon, astrophysicist
  • Elisabeth de Fontenay, philosopher and essayist
  • Pierre Gibert, theologist
  • Pascal Picq, palaeoanthropologist
  • Pierre Thomas, geologist
Continue the visit

Species, the Web of life

Exposition Espèces, la maille du vivant