Flint flakes, © Préhistomuseum
Wallonia – A cradle of prehistory Préhistomuseum, Belgium / Author: Fernand Collin
bones of extinct animal species, mingled with flints and bones carved by human hands!
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-ofthe-art research led by Belgian researchers stems from the works of Philippe-Charles Schmerling.
After he had excavated about sixty caves in the Liège region, Philippe- Charles Schmerling published the first monograph integrating animal palaeontology, human palaeontology, prehistorical archaeology and paleopathology (two volumes of respectively 167 and 195 pages, including 34 and 40 plates). In these two volumes he considered all the data, confronted his observations and his
he Préhistomuseum has undertaken the task of paying a tribute to a leading pioneer of prehistory, Philippe-Charles Schmerling, a genius precursor.
At the Awirs, in Flémalle, a bust of Schmerling was erected in the middle of the village. It is the starting point of the pedestrian hike named after him, around Engis and the caves where he excavated two human skulls. © Michel Toussaint
The entry to the Schmerling cave, during an intervention by the “Chercheurs de la Wallonie” during the 1950s. © Chercheurs de la Wallonie
In September 1829, armed with a shovel and a pickaxe, he enters a cave in the small village of Chokier (Flémalle-Liège). His purpose: to explore the cave and excavate fossil animals in order to understand the mystery of their origins. During the winter of 1829/30, in this steep valley between the districts of Engis and Flémalle, in the Engis cave, also called “Trou Caheur”, Schmerling excavates two human skulls surrounded by Magazine May 2019
innovative ideas with those published by a small circle of French, German and British researchers. In those early years of the 19th century, he managed to prove what was unthinkable at the time: that human fossils existed and that a “humanity” well before ours, well before the Flood, could be proven... His conclusion reads “all that we have just said about these remains that were handled by human hands, and all that we have said about the human remains is valid, accurate and indisputable. Only time will tell if we were
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