What was the Ice Age really like?
What did it look like here when hippos lived on the Rhine? And when was that? And when did the mammoths exist? The exhibition gives an overview of the climate development of the past and gives a (perhaps) surprising impression of flora and fauna in the Ice Age.

Ice age – always icy?
For 2.6 million years we have lived in an ice age – both poles are covered with ice caps. However, the climate is not always icy cold; it alternates between cold and warm periods. The last completed warm stage, the Eemian, began about 126,000 years ago and ended about 115,000 years ago. During this period, the average annual temperatures were several degrees higher than they are today. The subsequent cold period, the Würm, lasted from 115,000 years ago to 11,700 years ago and was significantly colder than today – the Ice Age as we imagine it. Since the end of the Würm, we have been living in the Holocene warm stage with relatively mild winters and moderate summers.

But how do we know what the climate was like in the past? And how do ice ages even develop at all? What information is available on the flora and fauna? With interactive stations, vivid graphics, and extraordinary exhibits, we explore these questions in the first part of the exhibition. We explain how ice ages occur and what was special about the Upper Rhine region during the last cold and warm periods . To this end, various climate witnesses will be presented. These provide information on the development of the climate and its influence on the ecology of the Upper Rhine region: Traces in the landscape, soil, and rocks as well as soil profiles and pollen diagrams enable us to determine the plant species of that time and other evidence of glacial life.

Mammoth or forest elephant?

Both – although not at the same time. During the cold period, mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, steppe bison, and giant deer roamed the steppe landscape on the Upper Rhine. On the other hand, during the last warm period, it was even warmer than today. Mighty forest elephants, forest rhinos, water buffalo – and hippos – lived here at that time!
The second exhibition area, which features room-filling dioramas, will lead you on a journey into the past of our region: Beginning with the Eemian period, the hall leads into to the Würm period – with summer time on one side and winter on the other. In an atmospheric presentation based on the Upper Rhine landscape between the Vosges and Black Forest, we show typical plants and animals from the warm and cold periods. Original finds, preparations, and life-size models of the woolly hair and forest rhinos, European water buffalos, and hippopotamuses convey an impressive picture of the animal world at that time.

Outstanding objects such as the skulls of the cave lion and cave bear, the tusks of a  forest elephant and woolly hair mammoth, or the mighty antlers of a giant deer complete the dioramas.
The “Daxlander Rhinoceros Skull”, which was discovered in 1802 in what is now Karlsruhe’s Daxlanden district during work on the banks of the Rhine and was initially thought to be the skull of a mermaid, is not only important for people in Karlsruhe. It is one of the best preserved skulls of a forest rhinoceros in the world.

In addition to these extinct animals, we also show a multitude of other animals and plants, some of which we still know today. The different ways of life and survival strategies under extreme climatic conditions are also discussed. These include aspects such as the search for food or the various possibilities of hibernation.

Early humans have also left their mark. Presumably about 200,000 years ago, the first Neanderthals appeared in Europe; about 40,000 years ago, the anatomically modern man (Homo sapiens) reached our continent. Stone tools, fossils, and skull casts testify to their existence in the exhibition.

Exhibition and more

In addition to the exhibitions, individual knowledge islands offer additional information. Listening and smelling stations allow visitors to experience the exhibition with all their senses and touch screens invite them to actively explore individual focal points in greater detail.

We offer a varied accompanying programme with lectures, guided tours and workshops, a day of action, children’s courses, and much more.

Audioguide in English available for € 3.00