The Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte (Museum of Prehistory and Early History) is one of the largest international collections of archaeological and prehistoric finds from the Old World. Its treasures are displayed in the Neues Museum on the Museumsinsel Berlin. The collections trace the development of prehistoric and protohistoric cultures from the Paleolithic period up to and into the High Middle Ages. Collection highlights include the famous skull of the Neanderthal from Le Moustier and the ‘Berlin Gold Hat’.
Recent finds from excavations in Berlin also include objects representing modern and contemporary history. The collection display in level 3 of the Neues Museum is currently being reorganized and will reopen in summer 2014. The renovations affect the display of objects from the Stone Age, Bronze Age, pre-Roman Iron Age, Berlin archaeology, and the study collection. The Vaterländischer Saal will remain open to the public and features the temporary display of the ‘Berlin Gold Hat’. The collection of Trojan antiquities, the Cyprus collections, archaeological objects from the Roman provinces and Free Germania and the display of objects from the Migration Period up to the Early Middle Ages are also open for our visitors.
With 6000 exhibits on view, the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte presents a sweeping survey of archaeological finds from the whole of Europe and parts of Asia, which bring to life the cultural history of these regions from the Stone Age up to the Middle Ages. They are joined by artworks from classical antiquity from the Antikensammlung.
On the ground floor, the room 'Odin, Urns and Looted Art' greets visitors with original, 19th-century wall paintings of Nordic mythological scenes. This is followed by the rooms dedicated to Heinrich Schliemann’s collection of artefacts from Troy and the cultural history of neighbouring Cyprus. The route around the first floor starts with the archaeology of the Roman provinces and depictions of Rome’s Germanic northern neighbours. Artefacts in the next room range from late antiquity to the start of Christian Western culture. Finally, the second floor takes visitors back to the Stone Age with the Neanderthal from Le Moustier, the Bronze Age with the Berlin Gold Hat, and the diverse culture of the pre-Roman Iron Age. The exhibition ends with a selection of the many artefacts held in the study collection, presented in historical cabinets in a style that is richly evocative of the original exhibition format which the very first visitors to the museum would have experienced some 150 years ago.
In March 2009, as inauguration its restoration, presented Sasha Waltz his dance performance Dialogue 09 in the yet empty rooms of the New Museum.
The opening of the Neues Museum marked a key chapter in the history of 19th-century art, museum design, and technology. Designed by Friedrich August Stüler and built from 1843 to 1855, the building suffered severe damage during World War II, after which it was left as an abandoned bombsite. Emergency measures to secure the structure were only taken in the 1980s.
Painstaking restoration work got under way in 2003 and was undertaken by the offices of the British architect David Chipperfield. The building’s façade and interiors were carefully preserved, the scars of the war were not patched over but rather incorporated into the restoration of the landmarked building. What emerged was a restored historical building that is simultaneously a modern museum. Chipperfield thus managed to lend this extraordinary building and former ruin a unique and wholly authentic splendour.
The museum reopened its doors to the public in 2009 and combines geographically and thematically related exhibits pooled together from three separate collections at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: the collection of Egyptian art from the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, of prehistoric objects from the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, and of classical antiquities from the Antikensammlung. This joint exhibition featuring exhibits of unparalleled breadth and diversity allows visitors to trace the development of prehistoric and protohistoric cultures, spanning from the Middle East to the Atlantic, from north Africa to Scandinavia.