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San Diego Museum of Man

Unearth a world of adventure at the San Diego Museum of Man, the impressive cultural anthropology museum in beautiful Balboa Park.

Unearth a world of adventure at the San Diego Museum of Man, the cultural anthropology museum in beautiful Balboa Park. Aside from its numerous artifacts and immersive exhibits, the museum offers tours of the California Tower, providing stunning views from 198 feet above San Diego.

Permanent exhibits include “Maya: Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth,” “Footsteps Through Time,” “Ancient Egypt,” “Kumeyaay: Native Californians” and “Race: Are We So Different?”

• In “Maya,” explore archaeological discoveries from the heart of Maya territory, southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Don’t miss the towering monuments, expansive rainforest mural, and original Maya figurines, masks, bowls, and more.

• “Footsteps Through Time” traces the history of human evolution. The exhibit is the only one of its kind on the West Coast. Venture through Hominin Hall, showcasing a variety of dioramas, including a Neandertal burial, a Cro-Magnon exhibit featuring a replica of Chauvet Cave in France (home of the world’s oldest cave paintings), and a touchable reproduction of Kenyanthropus platyops, a find by renowned archaeologists Meave and Louise Leakey.

• The “Ancient Egypt” exhibition — which includes an Egypt-themed kid’s area — features painted sarcophagi, stone carvings, pottery, amulets, jewelry and everyday artifacts. A Ptolemaic child’s coffin is also a featured item in the display; it is one of only seven in the world today.

• The Kumeyaay exhibition is dedicated to the Native American people of present-day Southern California (San Diego and western Imperial Counties) and Northern Baja, who lived in these areas for generations before the arrival of the Spanish. The Kumeyaay nation is represented in the San Diego area today by 13 bands, plus four bands in Baja, Mexico. The museum honors the Kumeyaay origins with a collection of arts, traditional dress, games, medicine and food procurement. Also don’t miss the extension of the main gallery, featuring an exploration of the Kumeyaay’s cosmological belief system.

• “Race” dispels myth, folklore and or assumptions about skin color, hair texture, eye shape and genetics and helps us understand how to deal human nature and biology in a constructive manner.

The museum’s exhibits have something for everyone, and engage people of all backgrounds. Its list of temporary (but long-running) exhibits focus on this mission. They include “Cannibals: Myth & Reality,” “Graffiti Art Murals,” “Monsters!,” “Facing Artifacts,” “BEERology” and “Living With Animals.”

• “Cannibals” explores why humans practice cannibalism, the different uses and effects of cannibalism on the human body and the long-held stereotypes about the practice. The tales of the Donner Party and the Andes Plane Crash are both examined in this one-of-a-kind, gore-free exhibit. “Cannibals” is on view for a limited time.

• “Graffiti Art Murals” features this contemporary art form near the museum’s ancient Maya and Egyptian exhibits. Visitors are greeted by bursts of bright colors and shapes, and larger-than-life figures like a scarab beetle and rainbow-hued leopard.

• “Monsters!,”  looks at everything from legendary unicorns to Godzilla in this all-ages exhibit. Visitors may make monsters of their own on a giant magnet wall, stage a play with strange creatures, and explore monster habitats, including caves, the sea and yes, the one under the bed.

“Facing Artifacts” features 12 plaster life casts of people of various ages and backgrounds. Half were made over a century ago as part of a now-outdated physical anthropology exhibition about the “progress of man” at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The other six were made recently and and are being exhibited as artifacts alongside their 1915 predecessors. Compare and contrast these casts that seemingly come to life up close.

• “BEERology” explores the fascinating stories of how ancient and modern cultures created the perfect brew. Also view a solid gold beer cup of an Inca king, and even discover the longest word for beer in this fun display.

• “Living With Animals,” the museum’s newest exhibit, takes a closer look at how we live with pets and pests, and how animals sometimes end up on dinner plates. Check out special events on canine ambassadors, honeybees, turtles and more.

Cap off a visit to the museum buy climbing the iconic California Tower, a spectacular experience. Enjoy the 40-minute tour up to the eighth floor of the tower, learn about its history from knowledgeable guides, and take photos from the viewing deck. Enjoy panoramic views of the county, from the glistening San Diego Bay to the west and the backdrop of the Laguna Mountains to the east. California Tower tour tickets include general admission to see the main museum exhibits.

The San Diego Museum of Man also houses ethnographic collections and a physical anthropology department. Contact the museum library to arrange research access to the collections. Museum activities include twice-monthly yoga classes in its spacious rotunda. Check the calendar for upcoming events. Guests may also rent the main museum or its Spanish Colonial-style St. Francis Chapel for corporate and private events. Call (619) 239-2001 ext. 31.


Located in Balboa Park

1350 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101
Call (619) 239-2001
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