The archaeological collections of the Museum of Prehistory include a wide range of objects, some of which date back to the origins of the discipline in the 1830s. Many pieces also come from the Spy excavations of 1885, which involved two researchers from the University of Liege.

Liège was the very first university in Belgium to open a course in prehistory, after the First World War. At that time, Professor Joseph Hamal-Nandrin was already taking his students into the field. Thanks to excavations, exchanges and acquisitions over the years, a collection of characteristic objects was built up to be used for practical work. In 1938, Professor Hélène Danthine created a small museum on the University's premises, which was enriched as archaeological research progressed, until it reached several hundred thousand pieces.

Today, excavated material in Belgium must be handed over to repositories approved by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. Researchers no longer bring back finds made abroad. The University collections are therefore only expanded through exchanges or donations.

Remarkable Pieces

The hand axes are among the oldest and most spectacular objects of the Palaeolithic. Various flint and bone fragments illustrate the variety of hunting weapons used later by Neanderthals and modern humans.

Two fragments of Magdalenian engraved plates are visible, testimony to the movable art of the Upper Palaeolithic in Belgium.

Indispensable Tool for Teaching

The objects in the collections of the Museum of Prehistory are used for teaching purposes in the context of practical work, as a counterpoint to the theoretical courses. The students handle real archaeological objects, learn to recognise them, to differentiate them and to determine their method of manufacture.

Understanding Prehistoric Technologies

At the TraceoLab, the team of researchers studies, using different very special microscopes, the traces of wear visible on the various stone tools and the residues (fibres, grease, glue, etc.) that adhere to them. These microscopic traces result from the friction of the tool with another material that has not been preserved (organic, for example) and their analysis allows us to understand how and for what the tools were really used.

In order to interpret these traces, a reference collection is used. Stone tools are made, fitted and used in conditions compatible with those of prehistoric times. The programme consists of carrying out each action (cutting, drilling, scraping, etc.) with each material potentially used (wood, bone, skin, etc.). These tools then become part of the TraceoLab reference collection called TRAIL. The analysis of the experimental tools and the comparison of the microscopic traces with those on the archaeological pieces allows us to associate, with certainty, the traces to a precise activity.

Analyse Objects

New technologies and methodologies are regularly used to re-analyse prehistoric objects. The research carried out in Liège contributes to these methodological developments and uses innovative technologies. Some famous sites are regularly re-studied to answer new questions and sometimes question knowledge that was thought to be certain.

What we think we know about the way of life of our ancestors is influenced by what we experience in our current European society. Violence, the place of women and the sexual division of labour, migrations, and so on. Our knowledge suffers from many biases that only the precise analysis of the objects allows us to consider objectively. 

To Visit on Special Occasions

The Museum of Prehistory is intended for researchers and students. However, it can be open to groups and schools by appointment, and sometimes to the wider public during special events.



Les collections archéologiques du Musée de Préhistoire comprennent des objets dont la découverte remonte pour certains aux origines de la discipline, dans les années 1830.

The TRACÉOLAB Laboratory

Les collections de Préhistoire et leur potentiel

Share this page