by Katrin Hieke

Network Meeting at the Préhistomuseum, Belgium

Our second network meeting in 2019 took us to the Préhistomuseum in Wallonia, Belgium. Few people are aware that Wallonia is a fertile ground for prehistory and that Belgium played a dominant part in the birth and evolution of this discipline in the 19th century.

The ongoing state-of-the-art research led by Belgian researchers stems from the works of Philipp-Charles Schmerling. During the winter of 1829/1830, in the Engis cave, Schmerling excavated two human skulls surrounded by bones of extinct animal species, mingled with flints and bones carved by human hands. He managed to prove what was unthinkable at the time: that human fossils existed and a “humanity” well before ours. Thus, the Engis site in the “Schmerling valley” can be considered the birthplace of one of the major scientific revolutions in the history of humanity: the recognition of fossil men.

Nearby Engis cave, located at the archaeological site of the cave of Ramioul, the Préhistomuseum extends over 30 hectares. It forms the link between the numerous archaeological sites from Engis to Goyet and is one of the largest museums for prehistory in Europe.

During our network meeting at the beginning of October 2019, we explored the grounds and exhibitions of the Préhistomuseum, met the Chercheurs de la Wallonie as well as representatives of ArchéoPass – Network of Archaeological Sites and Museums in Wallonia to exchange about networking.

Besides exchanging news from the members sites and planning network projects, we dedicated a substantial amount of time to the pressing issue of climate change, the UN sustainable development goals and how museums and museum professionals can take action.

The network meeting was followed by a post-conference tour to Scladina Cave, a new network member in 2020, and an international conference at the Préhistomuseum about mediation of chronology in archaeology open to all.

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