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The Earliest Human Occupation Of The British Isles

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The ancient Thames and the Lower Palaeolithic occupation of Britain

Stones may hold key to why we are here

ISABEL COCKAYNE

January 28, 2004 10:06

They may not look like the greatest talkers, but these stones have a story to tell.

Hundreds of thousands of years ago they were washed down to East Anglia with a vast river that cut through the middle of England.

But what the experts are puzzling over today is where this river ran its course.

If they can plot its course and date it accurately, they could prove there were humans living in Britain 500,000 years ago and fill a gap in our pre-historic knowledge.

And a hand-axe discovered at Lakenheath in the 1800s could be the vital link they need.

This is part of an historical puzzle being pieced together by archaeologists across the country as part of the national Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) survey.

Yesterday, members of AHOB were at Maidscross Heath, Lakenheath in Suffolk, taking samples from the site of the ancient riverbed to help them track its course.

The site was chosen because there was already a hole there – it served as a quarry in the second world war – but also because antiquarian geologist RW Flower found a hand-axe on the heath in 1869.

In three pits made on Monday, the scientists have already found gravel deposits, which prove the river ran from the West Midlands down through Suffolk and Norfolk. Its course is lost in the sea at Yarmouth, but it would have gone on to meet other massive Continental rivers in a delta.

Archaeologist Nick Ashton, the British Museum's senior curator in the department of pre-history and Europe, said they are trying to look at when humans were here and what kind of climate they were living in.

The evidence suggests the hand-axe found at Lakenheath was probably carried onto the site by the river from somewhere else in England.

"There is a huge gap in human occupation between 250,000 and 60,000 years ago. There seems to be a complete absence of humans in Britain – probably because of the creation of the English Channel.

"This site is really quite exciting as it proves the first human occupation was ½million years ago, and could have been slightly earlier.

"We are looking at dating this site. The hand-axe found by Flower is slightly rolled smooth, caused by it rolling in river gravel. This (site) would not have been where it was made. The axe could have been eroded out of an even earlier deposit, which means it is at least ½million years old, possibly even 600,000 years old," he added.

Simon Lewis, a lecturer at Queen Mary College of London, said this river bed was an exciting find.

"We're here because Maidscross Heath is an area we don't know much about geologically. The river sequence in this area is a very important part of the development of East Anglia.

"Drainage altered beyond recognition during glaciation 450,000 years ago."

At that time the River Thames flowed through Suffolk and Essex, but it was diverted to its present course by the pressure of the ice. That ice sheet covered the Lakenheath site and its deposits were destructive, eventually carving out the Wash and the Fens.

"We are looking at sites like these in Norfolk and Suffolk, trying to recognise certain distinguishing things in the river deposits," said Dr Lewis.

At Lakenheath there is evidence of quartzite and quartz that has travelled from a very old deposit in the West Midlands.

Sites with similar deposits run south to Ingham, near Bury St Edmunds, through central Suffolk near the Waveney Valley into eastern Suffolk and then Norfolk, said Dr Lewis.

"Lakenheath is a fragment of this river's story. It flowed out across to Great Yarmouth and out to a massive delta where it met the Rhine and other large continental rivers," he said.

Specialists from several institutes and universities across the country are working together to investigate when people first arrived in Britain, and what factors led to their survival.

Source
 
Archaeologists Excited by 500,000-Year-Old Axe Find

Greets

ARCHAEOLOGISTS EXCITED BY 500,000-YEAR-OLD AXE FIND IN QUARRY
By David Prudames 16/12/2004

Shows a composite image of a Stone Age axe head photographed from four different angles.

This image shows the axe head from different angles. Photo: Graham Norrie, University of Birmingham Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity.

A Stone Age hand axe dating back 500,000 years has been discovered at a quarry in Warwickshire.

The tool was found at the Smiths Concrete Bubbenhall Quarry at Waverley Wood Farm, near Coventry, which has already produced evidence of some of the earliest known human occupants of the UK.

It was uncovered in gravel by quarry manager John Green who took it to be identified by archaeologists at the University of Birmingham.

"We are very excited about this discovery," enthused Professor David Keen of the university's Archaeology Field Unit.

"Lower Palaeolithic artefacts are comparatively rare in the West Midlands compared to the south and east of England so this is a real find for us."

Despite being half and million years old the tool is very well-preserved and will eventually go on show at Warwickshire Museum.

Amongst other things, the hand axe would have been used for butchering animals, but what is perhaps most intriguing about it is that it is made of a type of volcanic rock called andesite.

Photo: Graham Norrie, University of Birmingham Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity.
Shows a photograph of a Stone Age hand axe.

Andesite bedrock only occurs in the Lake District or North Wales and this is only the ninth andesite hand axe to be found in the midlands in over a century. Archaeologists are now trying to figure out how the tool might have got there.

Although it is possible the rock was transported to the midlands by glacial ice from the north west there is as yet no evidence for it, which suggests humans might have brought it into the area.

The lack of material for good quality hand axes in the midlands would probably have been known to our ancestors, therefore these tools could have been brought in ready made.

It may also be significant that all previous andesite hand axe finds have been made in deposits of the Bytham River, a now lost river system that crossed England from the Cotswolds via the West Midlands and Leicester to the North Sea.

This valley was destroyed in a later glaciation and seems to have provided a route into the midlands for Palaeolithic hunters.

Half a million years ago the area was at the edge of the human world, linked to Europe along the Bytham valley and across a land-bridge existing before the cutting of the Straits of Dover.

In addition to the hand axe the Smiths Concrete Bubbenhall Quarry has produced 18 other Palaeolithic tools, currently under investigation by the team at Birmingham Archaeology.

Other finds in the area include bones and teeth from a straight-tusked elephant, which are also set to be displayed at Warwickshire Museum.

Warwickshire Museum


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mal
 
This goes back to the big arguement about the main stone industries of Lower Palaeolithic Britain (and elsewhere): the Acheulian (hand axe) and the Clactonian (non hand axe) and whether they represent two cultures or the same people doing two different things (e.g. like animal butchery and wood working, respectively) and this goes with the first interpretaion:

The mysterious end of Essex man

Archaeologists now believe two groups of early humans fought for dominance in ancient Britain - and the axe-wielders won

Robin McKie, science editor
Sunday January 23, 2005
The Observer

Divisions in British culture may be deeper than we thought. Scientists have discovered startling evidence that suggests different species of early humans may have fought to settle within our shores almost half a million years ago.

They have found that two different groups - one wielding hand-axes, the other using Stone Age Stanley knives to slash and kill - could have been rivals for control of ancient Britain.

'The evidence is only tantalising, but it is intriguing,' said palaeontologist Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum, London. 'Certainly it suggests Britain may well have been multicultural 400,000 years ago.'

This new interpretation of our prehistory is based on the recent discovery of a site - by archaeologists working with engineers building the Channel Tunnel high-speed rail link at Ebbsfleet in Kent - that shows ancient hunters once chased a giant elephant into a bog in Kent, trapped it there and then cut it to pieces, eating its flesh raw.

Four hundred thousand years ago, Britain's climate was warm, there was a land link to the continent and animal life included lions, rhinos, buffalos, and a species of elephant, Palaeoloxodon antiquus - the Ebbsfleet elephant - which stood four metres high at its shoulders and weighed twice its modern African equivalent.

'There are other sites where we have found elephant remains in this country,' said Southampton University archaeologist Dr Francis Wenban Smith, who led the Ebbsfleet excavations. 'However, this is the first that has been found with stone tools and that looks as if it was hunted and butchered.'

But it is the nature of the tools used for this butchery that has raised scientific eyebrows. At other ancient sites around Britain, archaeologists have found hand axes: beautifully honed, fist-sized tools that were probably held like daggers and used to rip and stab prey by a species of human called Homo heidelbergensis.

But none was found at Ebbsfleet. Instead, there were remains of dozens of much smaller stone implements, made up of razor-sharp flakes and blades. 'They were like Stanley knives,' said Wenban Smith. 'They could have slashed and torn to devastating effect.' Only one other major site in Britain, plus a couple of smaller ones, has revealed this distinctive assemblage of smaller stone tools: at Clacton, in Essex. Until recently, scientists were unsure of the importance of this 'Clactonian' culture. Now they have found a second, major site, a discovery that could have profound ramifications.

'This is extremely important,' said Prof Stringer, director of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, which is investigating how the British Isles were originally colonised. 'It certainly supports the idea that there was more than one ancient culture at this time.'

Cultural variation in a creature that relied on brute strength and little intelligence for survival is considered improbable by scientists, a point stressed by Michael Pitts, editor of British Archaeology. 'That hominids this ancient should express "cultural" variation would add a new perspective to the behaviour of creatures that many of us still think of as being nearer apes than humans,' he states in the current issue of the journal.

Instead, he argues that two completely different human species, each with its own culture, may have been slugging it out for conquest of our shores.

The trouble is that scientists are stymied by the paucity of remains of men and women from this period. They have lots of tools but only a shinbone, two teeth and some bits of skull from a human.

'At this time in Europe, Homo heidelbergensis was giving way or evolving into Neanderthals,' said Stringer. 'But there are hints gleaned from comparing bits of their bones and tools that we have found in Britain and the continent that there may be separate species of this creature: one that made hand-axes and one that did not. This is one of the big questions of human evolution studies today and a major focus for our work.'

As to who triumphed in Britain between the hand axe wielders and the Clactonians, scientists have established that the remains of the former are almost always found in more recent archaeological layers and appear to replace those of the Clactonians. In other words, the fate of the first Essex men was probably extinction.

Source
 
It all conjures up wonderful imaginings. Hope heaven has a well-stocked, full-colour archives of all this on DVD.
 
First northern Europeans arrived early

Published online: 14 December 2005;
| doi:10.1038/news051212-8

First northern Europeans arrived early
Stone tools in England push back date of arrival by 200,000 years.
Michael Hopkin

The first humans ever to reach northern Europe may have done so far earlier than we thought. A set of stone tools found in southern England has been dated to 700,000 years ago, suggesting that handymen who could make implements like these were living north of the Alps some 200,000 years before previous artefacts had suggested.

The cache of 32 flint blades, found at Pakefield on England's east coast, represent the first reliably dated artefacts of this age from northern Europe, say Anthony Stuart of University College London and his colleagues, who report their findings in Nature1.

The trip north may not have been as difficult as it would appear. The landmass of England was attached to northern Europe 700,000 years ago, so the early visitors would not have faced a sea journey across the English Channel. And rather than battling over the Alps, it seems likely that humans would have forayed north along the coasts. "It doesn't mean they did a Hannibal and went over the mountain passes," Stuart told [email protected]. "They probably went around."

The discovery shows that early human species in Europe migrated to the north not long after they had made themselves at home in the south. The earliest known artefacts from Spain and Italy are around 800,000 years old.

Balmy army

It seems unlikely, however, that these humans lived permanently in Europe's cold northern climes. Instead, Stuart suggests, they probably only journeyed north during times when Britain's climate was similar to that of the Mediterranean, retreating again during colder intervals.

The Britain they encountered was a world away from the cold, drizzly island we know today, says Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, who also worked on the study. "The early humans who made these tools were living alongside creatures such as hippos, elephants, rhinos, hyenas and lions," he says.

The presence of tools is no indication that their makers were there for a long time, comments Anthony Sinclair, an archaeologist at the University of Liverpool, UK. "Thirty-two tools is a few minutes' work," he says.

The simple flint flakes would have been fairly versatile, Sinclair says, with uses ranging from butchery to whittling wood. Some blades have been blunted by extensive use, suggesting that they were designed for active duty.

Dating game

Stuart and his colleagues dated the tools using several different lines of evidence. For example, the flints were found below glacial deposits known to be around 450,000 years old, suggesting that they are older than this. But the magnetic properties of the surrounding soil suggests that they are younger than 780,000 years, when the magnetic signature of the region changed dramatically. "Thankfully, all the lines of evidence agree," says Stuart.

One of the things we don't know, however, is who these people were. Living at a time when Homo sapiens was not yet even a glint in Africa's eye, they may have been members of H. antecessor, the primitive species thought to have lived in southern Europe, or early representatives of H. heidelbergensis, which lived in northern Europe many millennia later, Stringer suggests.

References
Parfitt S. A., et al. Nature, 483. 1008 - 1012 (2005).

Story from [email protected]:
http://news.nature.com//news/2005/051212/051212-8.html
 
Did humans colonise north Europe earlier than thought?
18:00 14 December 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Rowan Hooper

Enlarge image
The flint tools discovered in Pakefield were evidently crafted from riverside stones and may have been used to cut meat (Image: Harry Taylor/Natural History Museum)
Enlarge image
The prehistoric humans who made the tools lived alongside elephants, lions and other large mammals (Artist’s impression: Natural History Museum)Humans may have colonised northern Europe 200,000 years earlier than previously thought. Stone tools found in eastern England suggest that humans were there at least 700,000 years ago.

"We don't know for sure what species it was," says team member Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London, "but my bet is it's an early form of Homo heidelbergensis or Homo antecessor."

H. heidelbergensis is known to have been present in central Europe about 500,000 years ago. Bones were first discovered in 1907 near Heidelberg, Germany, and have since been found in France and Greece. Hominin remains about 800,000 years old have been found in Spain and Italy, indicating that early humans had colonised southern Europe by this time. These early humans have been classed as another species, H. antecessor, though arguments remain over whether it is a really separate species to H. heidelbergensis.

The 32 stone tools, made of black flint and many of them still sharp, were discovered by amateur archaeologists at Pakefield, Suffolk. They have been dated using several methods. Firstly, the magnetic polarity of iron-containing minerals in the sedimentary rocks where the tools were found is aligned north-south, just as it is today. The Earth's magnetic field underwent a polarity reversal 780,000 years ago, so the site must be younger than that.

The tools were found beneath glacial deposits laid down during a period 450,000 years ago when the region was blanketed in ice, so they must be older than this. Also present were fossils of a water vole Mimomys, which was superseded by another vole species called Arvicola around 500,000 years ago. This leads the authors to speculate that the tools are around 700,000 years old.

A new amino-acid dating technique developed by Kirsty Penkman of the University of York in the UK supports this estimate. The method was used to measure the breakdown of amino acids within shells of a freshwater snail found at the site (Nature, vol 438, p 1008).

Back then Britain was connected to what is now the European mainland and had a climate similar to that of the Mediterranean today. The researchers found hippo fossils at the Pakefield site, as well as fossils of other warmth-loving species such as lion, an extinct giant deer called Megaloceros dawkinsi and Palaeoloxodon antiquus, an extinct straight-tusked elephant. Rhinos and hyenas also roamed the region.

The warm climate probably allowed early humans to migrate northwards without the need to develop technology such as fire and clothing or to adapt to a colder climate, says Anthony Stuart of University College London, who coordinated the project.

But the climate got the better of them eventually. "People couldn't settle here long-term," says Stringer. "They would have been swept away by the cold stage that followed about 100,000 years ago."

http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn8464
 
On this beach, 700,000 years ago ...

One wintry day, two keen fossil collectors found a flint beneath these cliffs. It didn't look like much, but it turned out to be evidence for the earliest humans in Britain. Mike Pitts on the amateur archaeologists who rewrote history

Friday January 6, 2006
The Guardian

Given the choice, the bottom of a cliff with the tide coming in fast is not a place you'd work. For Paul Durbidge and Bob Mutch, however, the foreshore at Pakefield, south of Lowestoft, Suffolk, is precisely where they want to be. Especially in winter, and even more so when the storms are up. Because it's then that the fossils are exposed.

Durbidge and Mutch have been collecting on this beach for years; they have assembled a huge and academically valuable collection of animal bones. In 2000, though, they heard that along the coast in Norfolk, someone had found a flint handaxe that was 500,000 years old. It would have been made by a distant ancestor of Neanderthals, and as far as Britain was concerned, was as old as early humans got. This gave Durbidge and Mutch an idea. They knew their animal fossils from Pakefield were older than that. What if we have flints here too, they thought? "We had a gut feeling about Pakefield," says Durbidge.

Late in 2001, they hit the jackpot: during an excavation, they found a small flint flake. To the uninitiated, it's just a chip of stone, the sort of thing you might prise out of your sandal. But the two friends saw it for what it was: a diamond amid dross. That little chip of flint had been shaped by the hand of one of the very first Europeans.

Late last month, the journal Nature announced the discovery of 700,000-year-old stone tools in Suffolk - pushing back the date of arrival of early humans in northern Europe by 200,000 years. Buried in the list of 19 authors were the names of Mutch and Durbidge.

While their address was given as Lowestoft Museum, they are not on the staff: in a great British tradition of "amateur" scientists and explorers, Mutch and Durbidge are unpaid and answerable to no one. Without them, the flints might never have been found. In our regulated, budget-driven world, it turns out that it's still possible for the independent visionary to rewrite history.

There is a dark layer of clay that can be seen intermittently along the coastal cliffs of Norfolk and Suffolk, and it's known as the Cromer Forest-bed Formation. It got its name from ancient tree stumps, and for over 200 years has been popular with collectors for its copious fossils - mammoth, sabretooth cat, bison and other exotic creatures. Pakefield was famous for fossils a century ago, but until recently the shore was covered with debris and little more could be found.

The coast south of Lowestoft is Bob Mutch's patch. He began collecting fossils, he says, as a youngster in the Southwold area. He knew the history of Pakefield and kept an eye on it. Then in 1994, there was a big storm. "Then the proverbial hit the fan," he says in his soft accent. "There was tons of material everywhere."

During a big winter storm, the beach can disappear for a period - suddenly the ground drops by several metres. On those rare occasions when everything goes right, ancient gravel-filled river channels are exposed, packed with animal bones. Mutch describes running about, picking up fossils in a frenzy while the tide rolls around and cliffs slump into the waves.

In 2000, a group of scientists found a worked flint at Pakefield - but it was not in situ; it was loose, rather than embedded in the clay, and therefore couldn't be dated. Mutch and Durbidge, already buoyed up by news of the Norfolk handaxe, knew they'd need to do better.

So, starting in late 2001, Durbidge and Mutch excavated small sections at the bottom of the cliff. They were thorough. "We have to map it all, take the photographs, systematically scrape the surface, sieve, wash and sort," says Mutch. He's not as fit as he was, and an assistant, Adrian Charlton, does the spadework. "He stands up to his knees in cold water," says Mutch. "Works his backside off. He loves sieving."

Then came the flint. "It was pure luck," says Durbidge. "We'd done three small sections, and we found our first flint flake."

"I knew what it was," says Mutch. "It was crisp ... stood out a mile."

They sent it to the Natural History Museum, and got an excited letter back: "You appear to have hit the jackpot."

In 2003, a small team that included members of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (Ahob), a project involving scientists from institutions across the UK, came to Pakefield to excavate. They were helped - and watched closely - by Mutch and co, keen to have their discoveries vindicated.

Ahob found three more flints, perfectly sealed in the clay alongside animal fossils.

Simon Parfitt, small-mammals expert at the Natural History Museum and University College London, had also been looking for signs of early humans on the East Anglian coast. In 1998, he'd found the very first, ironically on a bison bone that had been in the museum's collection since 1897. The bone had microscopic cuts on it, that could only have been made by a flint butchery knife: unfortunately, it was not sealed in the clay layer.

His quest, like that of Durbidge and Mutch, had brought him and Ahob to Pakefield. Not only was he hoping for flints, but also the supportive evidence that large mammals had been defleshed with stone tools. He wanted the bones of a butchered mammoth.

Parfitt and colleagues sieved everything they dug up, some of it in the lab in London, and over the next few months sorted the thousands of tiny fragments under a microscope. "There was a huge quantity of small mammals," he says, including such exotics as "a very rare extinct aquatic shrew", bats, squirrels, hamsters and, most significantly, the vole species known to have died out some 700,000 years ago. No butchered beasts yet, but they were now confident of the great age, the association with flint tools and the nature of the landscape and fauna at that remote date.

For these flints - they total 32 now - prove humans to have been there, but it's the animal bones, plant remains, beetles and sediment studies that allow us to picture what it was like. What would it be like, then? Tony Stuart, a leading specialist in ice-age mammals at the University of Durham and UCL, says that at first you would think you were in modern Britain as it might be if it was still wilderness, with broadleaved woodland opening on to marsh around a meandering river rich with pike, tench and rudd - though you might feel a little warm.

However, he says, "in a short while, familiarity would have given way to astonishment." As a lion roared and hyenas whooped, a mammoth would crash through the undergrowth on its way to the river, upsetting the hippos sunning themselves on the bank. The roster of creatures would make a theme park drawl with envy: an extinct giant beaver, wild boar, three different extinct giant deer, a giant moose, an extinct bison, two species of horse, an extinct rhino, the enormous straight-tusked elephant (larger than any elephant alive today) and the mammoth itself, an ancestor of the (smaller) woolly mammoth of the later ice ages.

There were humans out there, but so few as to be almost unnoticed. The animals' chief concerns were the more vicious carnivores: lion, spotted hyena (Durbidge and Mutch have found not just bones, but droppings too), wolf, bear and the spectacular sabretooth cat.

In fact, humans were so rare, it's normal in such work to find a huge range of animals but no fossil hominins.

And what were these early humans like? Well, they predate Neanderthals by hundreds of thousands of years, but still would have been much more like us than our closest living relatives today, the chimpanzees. At Boxgrove in West Sussex a few fossils have been found of Homo heidelbergensis, dating from 500,000 years ago. Pakefield hominins may be their ancestors, and ultimately the Neanderthals' too - it's thought that, some 15,000 years ago, the lineage died out.

Durbidge and Mutch have mixed feelings about publicity, little surprise given the history of occasional mistrust, not just between professional and amateur archaeologists, but professional and professional too. Media coverage of the 700,000-year-old humans last month inevitably focused on the sponsoring institutions - 15 alone listed in Nature - rather than the Suffolk men. Although they spoke to me for this article, Mutch and Durbidge later decided they did not want to be photographed. Their work at the cliff face is not yet over, and they fear attracting undue attention to it.

"It's the science that's important", says Mutch, "not us."

The fact is, though, that it's men and women like them who have helped to write our early history and will continue to do so.

The Suffolk flints may not look like much, yet their context launches them on to the stage of British history. The implications are huge. If evidence for hominins 700,000 years ago could be missed for 200 years in a part of the world with probably the highest density of collectors and scientists, what might we yet find, in older deposits here and elsewhere?

-----------
· Mike Pitts is the editor of British Archaeology

www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1680313,00.html
 
the big question is however...

these worked tools wher found with no hominid context with them. Their is no doubt that they are man made but by who..??

Homo Sapiens or heidelbergensis......????

Boxgrove still remains technically the oldest site in uk in my book untill hominid remains are found in context...
 
kiev85 said:
the big question is however...

these worked tools wher found with no hominid context with them. Their is no doubt that they are man made but by who..??

Homo Sapiens or heidelbergensis......????

Boxgrove still remains technically the oldest site in uk in my book untill hominid remains are found in context...

In the UK given the date I'd go for heidelbergensis. There is little sign of any late erectus at this date in Europe.
 
i would tend to agree at the moment with what you say...

but lack of evidence is not conclusive...at the furthest extent during the anglian, the ice reached the Thames...

Periods of advance and recession of the ice would have completely destroyed any open sites...

If we could only drain the English Channel...as this would provide a great number of artefacts
 
Front garden yields ancient tools

Front garden yields ancient tools

The Britons of 250,000 years ago were a good deal more sophisticated than they are sometimes given credit for, new archaeological evidence suggests. It comes in the form of giant flint handaxes that have been unearthed at a site at Cuxton in Kent.

The tools display exquisite, almost flamboyant, workmanship not associated with this period until now.

The axes - one of which measured 307mm (1ft) in length - were dug up from old sand deposits in a front garden.

"It is a site where there would once have been a slow-moving river," explained Dr Francis Wenban-Smith, from the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins at the University of Southampton.

"It would have periodically overflowed its banks; and there would have been occasional sand bars and islands that got exposed. Obviously, at some point, Palaeolithic man was doing something there, left his handaxes, and they got covered up."

Ancient butcher

The biggest of the tools - the second largest of its type found in Britain - is beautifully preserved and sharply pointed.

It was probably used to butcher prey, which at that time would have included rhino, elephants, large deer and an extinct type of cattle known as aurochs.


Another big implement was uncovered immediately beside the star find; this time a cleaver, 179mm (7 inches) long by 134mm (5 inches) wide.
The lands which are now the UK have been occupied on and off by human species since before 500,000 years ago.

When the retreat of great ice sheets permitted, people would move in from warmer climes further south; and then abandon the region when conditions turned harsh again.

But the period from about 400,000 to 250,000 years ago is known to have been one of intense occupation; not by modern humans ( Homo sapiens ), who were not in Europe at this time, but by what is now an extinct human form evolving into Homo neanderthalensis , the Neanderthals.

Mind matters

The culture at Cuxton is one that archaeologists refer to as Acheulian, to describe the type of stone tool manufacturing that was dominant at that time.

Dr Wenban-Smith says the latest finds hint that these people were more advanced in their cognitive and behavioural development than is normally assumed.


"Both handaxes come from next to each other which is an important point because it shows they were making different designs," he told BBC News.
"This points to their mental capabilities. It shows that they could hold in their minds the idea of the shape they wanted to make. There are also technical traits in terms of how they were sharpened which would have to have been preconceived.

"To my mind, this helps prove that these people were not so far away from us as some would think and also that they were probably using language."

The Cuxton manufacturing techniques were soon supplanted by a different way of making stone tools, known as Levalloisian technology. Dr Wenban-Smith said it was unclear whether this knowledge was imported from further south in Europe or independently discovered by the Britons themselves.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/s ... 098748.stm

Published: 2006/06/20 12:58:55 GMT

© BBC MMVI
 
Early signs of elephant butchers

Bones and tusks dating back 400,000 years are the earliest signs in Britain of ancient humans butchering elephants for meat, say archaeologists.

Remains of a single adult elephant surrounded by stone tools were found in northwest Kent during work on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Scientists believe hunters used the tools to cut off the meat, after killing the animal with wooden spears.

The find is described in the Journal of Quaternary Science.

The first signs of the Stone Age site were uncovered by constructors at Southfleet Road in Ebbsfleet, Kent.
There does seem to be increasing evidence that they were focusing on hunting only the larger animals with more meat
Dr Francis Wenban-Smith

Excavations revealed the skeleton of an extinct species of elephant ( Palaeoloxodon antiquus ) lying at the edge of what would once have been a small lake.

Flint tools lay scattered around, suggesting the animal had been cut up by a tribe of the early humans around at the time, known as Homo heidelbergensis .

"It is the earliest site of elephant butchery in Britain," Dr Francis Wenban-Smith of the University of Southampton told the BBC News website.

"In fact it is the only such site in Britain and it is very rare to find undisturbed evidence of this kind."

Early hunting ground

Dr Wenban-Smith believes the elephant, which was twice the size of those living today, was probably brought down by a pack of hunters armed with wooden spears.

"They either hunted it or possibly found it in an injured state and then killed it," he explained.

"Then they got some flint tools from nearby and they would have swarmed all over it and cut off the meat.

"They would have been carrying off armfuls of meat to their local base camp."

Rhino feast

The elephant would have been eaten raw, as there is no evidence that fire was used for cooking at the time.

The hunter gatherers probably also feasted on other large mammals, as the bones of buffalo, rhino, deer and horse were also found nearby.


ELEPHANT-KILLERS
The elephant was a fully-grown male, weighing 10 tonnes
It was probably felled by spears, which early humans were using at the time
Stone tools would have been gathered nearby; chips suggest they were used to butcher the carcass

"There does seem to be increasing evidence that they were focusing on hunting only the larger animals with more meat and suggestions that they were living in larger groups than we've generally thought," said Dr Wenban-Smith.

The remains of the elephant - including parts of its upper torso, skull, fore-limbs, tusks and some teeth - have been taken to the Natural History Museum for further analysis.

The site itself has been covered over and now lies beneath a roundabout near the Channel Tunnel Rail Link car park.

---------
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/s ... 128892.stm

Published: 2006/06/30 17:32:43 GMT

© BBC MMVI
 
Archaeologists discover Britain's 'oldest house'
By Sean Coughlan, BBC News education correspondent

Archaeologists are claiming to have discovered the oldest house in Britain.

The circular structure, found at a site near Scarborough, North Yorkshire, has been dated as being made in 8,500BC.

Described as a "sensational discovery" by archaeologists, this is 500 years older than the previous oldest house.

The teams from the universities of Manchester and York are also examining a nearby wooden platform, which is being claimed as the oldest example of carpentry in Europe.

Nicky Milner, an archaeologist from the University York, says such sites are "incredibly rare" - and that finding such early evidence of settled living gives a new insight into hunter gatherers.

"What's really important is how it changes our view of hunter gatherers," says Dr Milner.

"There was a view of them as being very nomadic, highly-mobile people - but now we're seeing them as much more settled and sophisticated... People were living in the same places for generations."

"This is a sensational discovery and tells us so much about the people who lived at this time," says Dr Milner.


Evidence of what would have been a 3.5 metre house has been found at the Star Carr archaeological site, which was occupied by hunter gatherers 11,000 years ago, when Britain was attached to continental Europe.

The remains were dated by radio carbon and the type of tools used - which have identified the house as being from 8,500BC, older than the previous oldest known house, in Howick, Northumberland.

The people living here would have been among the first settlers returning after the glaciers of the ice age had retreated.

It was a round house - a smaller version of iron age round houses - with a circle of timber posts around a sunken circular floor area, which could have been covered by reeds.

It is not known how the walls and roof were covered, but it could have been thatched or used animal hides.

Archaeologists believe that the house had been rebuilt over time and that there were likely to have been other houses at the site.

It suggests that people of this era were more attached to settlements than had been previously thought - staying in one place rather than drifting across the landscape.

The Star Carr site, inhabited after the last ice age, is believed to have been in use for between 200 and 500 years.

It has been the subject of extensive research and excavation since its discovery in the 1940s - and has yielded items such as the paddle of a boat, arrow tips and masks made from red deer skulls.

There are also antler head-dresses, which could have been used in rituals.

The people living at Star Carr were hunters rather than farmers, catching animals such as deer, boar and elk, helped by domesticated dogs.

Archaeologists are also examining a wooden platform made from split timbers, near to the lakeside house, which is being claimed as the oldest example of carpentry so far discovered in Europe.

An 11,000-year-old tree trunk has also been found at the mesolithic-era site, with the bark still intact.

Chantal Conneller from the University of Manchester said: "This changes our ideas of the lives of the first settlers to move back into Britain after the end of the last ice age.

"We used to think they moved around a lot and left little evidence. Now we know they built large structures and were very attached to particular places in the landscape."

The teams were congratulated by Universities Minister David Willetts: "This exciting discovery marries world-class research with the lives of our ancestors.

"It brings out the similarities and differences between modern life and the ancient past in a fascinating way, and will change our perceptions for ever."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-10929343
 
Sure it's old, but look at the location!! ;)

So technically its an 'English' find, but in reality it was a 'continental' family who built it since there was no island back then. Britain as such did not even exist. Or perhaps the entire continent was ''part of the UK'..?

Fascinating uncovery.
 
Think this fits best here,

Sea bed study to get to bottom of Ireland's former British link
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ire ... 37717.html
DICK AHLSTROM, Science Editor

Wed, Jun 15, 2011

FOR YEARS scientists have speculated about whether a land bridge ever existed between Ireland and Britain. An international sea bed study now hopes to provide a definitive answer to this question.

Prof Andrew Cooper of the University of Ulster and seven other researchers set sail tomorrow morning from Castletownbere, Co Cork. He will lead the research, which also involves scientists from Trinity College Dublin, the British and Irish geological surveys and others from universities in Britain, US and Canada.

Although funded with more than €1 million from the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council, the project has attracted significant international interest.

This is because the study will also show how land pressed down by glaciers during the last ice age springs back when the ice melted, Prof Cooper said.

Sea level was much lower 15,000 years ago when massive glaciers blanketed the earth. Water trapped as ice meant sea level was 60 metres lower off our southern coast than it is today.

The south probably remained ice free but northern Britain and Ireland were pressed down by billions of tonnes of ice. Here sea level was perhaps 30 metres lower, but the northern part of the island even today continued to rebound upwards, he said.

The researchers will spend the next three years looking for physical evidence of where these ancient coastlines were located.

First they will map sea floor structures, pinpointing submerged deltas and river valleys and also former coastlines marked by signs of erosion. Next year they will go back and collect cores of sea bed sediment from locations of interest.

“If we get peat we can look at the pollen in it to help us reconstruct the past environment,” Prof Cooper said. It will tell them about the types of plants growing then and the environment. They can also carbon date the samples.

They will look at sites off Bantry Bay, Waterford, Cardigan Bay in Wales, Drogheda, Britain’s Morecambe Bay due east from the Isle of Man and Belfast Lough.

Prof Cooper has decided not to prejudge what they will find, but has a view. “The highest likelihood is if there was [a land bridge], it had to have been in the south. I still think it is a bit of a long shot.”

The study will help build better computer models for what happens when the land lifts upwards as ice melts. It could be used to understand the changes to come as Greenland’s glaciers melt.
 
Ofc there was a link..and the Scottish giant totally owned the Irish one :D
 
I seem to recall reading something about Irish legend that described how the early Irish settlers (the Tuatha Dé Danann) crossed from England and Wales over a land bridge.
 
skinny said:
Sure it's old, but look at the location!! ;)

So technically its an 'English' find, but in reality it was a 'continental' family who built it since there was no island back then. Britain as such did not even exist. Or perhaps the entire continent was ''part of the UK'..?

Fascinating uncovery.
Back then, you could have walked from there to the Netherlands, via the Dogger Bank. The Thames and the Rhine were part of one enormous river system that extended far out into what later became the North Sea.

Really interesting discovery. Was it permanently inhabited, or was the Mesolithic equivalent of a seasonal, hunter-gatherer, or nomadic reindeer-herder, sheiling, I wonder?
 
Kents Cavern: inside the cave of stone-age secrets
A fossil from Kents Cavern in Devon is forcing scientists to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about human history, says Karolyn Shindler.

...

In November, Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum announced that a human jaw found in the cave in 1927 is 7,000 years older than was thought and, at 42,000 years, this makes it the oldest Homo sapiens in northwest Europe.

This is yet more evidence that modern humans must have lived side-by-side with Neanderthals, an extinct cousin species, for tens of thousands of years.

...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/scie ... crets.html

The earlier story:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/evol ... rquay.html
 
Mythopoeika said:
I seem to recall reading something about Irish legend that described how the early Irish settlers (the Tuatha Dé Danann) crossed from England and Wales over a land bridge.

I think there's even some mention of it in the second branch of the Mabinogi, but I can't quite remember.
 
Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk
By Pallab Ghosh, Science correspondent, BBC News
[Video: Dr Nick Ashton shows Pallab Ghosh where the footprints were found]

Scientists have discovered the earliest evidence of human footprints outside of Africa, on the Norfolk Coast in the East of England.
The footprints are more than 800,000 years old and were found on the shores of Happisburgh.
They are direct evidence of the earliest known humans in northern Europe.

Details of the extraordinary markings have been published in the science journal Plos One.
The footprints have been described as "one of the most important discoveries, if not the most important discovery that has been made on [Britain's] shores," by Dr Nick Ashton of the British Museum.
"It will rewrite our understanding of the early human occupation of Britain and indeed of Europe," he told BBC News.

The markings were first indentified in May last year during a low tide. Rough seas had eroded the sandy beach to reveal a series of elongated hollows.

I walked with Dr Ashton along the shore where the discovery was made. He recalled how he and a colleague stumbled across the hollows: "At the time, I wondered 'could these really be the case? If it was the case, these could be the earliest footprints outside Africa and that would be absolutely incredible."

Such discoveries are very rare. The Happisburgh footprints are the only ones of this age in Europe and there are only three other sets that are older, all of which are in Africa.

"At first, we weren't sure what we were seeing," Dr Ashton told me, "but it was soon clear that the hollows resembled human footprints."
The hollows were washed away not long after they were identified. The team were, however, able to capture the footprints on video that will be shown at an exhibition at London's Natural History Museum later this month.

The video shows the researchers on their hands and knees in cold, driving rain, engaged in a race against time to record the hollows. Dr Ashton recalls how they scooped out rainwater from the footprints so that they could be photographed. "But the rain was filling the hollows as quickly as we could empty them," he told me.

The team took a 3D scan of the footprints over the following two weeks. A detailed analysis of these images by Dr Isabelle De Groote of Liverpool John Moores University confirmed that the hollows were indeed human footprints, possibly of five people, one adult male and some children.

Dr De Groote said she could make out the heel, arch and even toes in some of the prints, the largest of which would have filled a UK shoe size 8 (European size 42; American size 9) .

"When I was told about the footprints, I was absolutely stunned," Dr De Groote told BBC News.
"They appear to have been made by one adult male who was about 5ft 9in (175cm) tall and the shortest was about 3ft. The other larger footprints could come from young adult males or have been left by females. The glimpse of the past that we are seeing is that we have a family group moving together across the landscape."

It is unclear who these humans were. One suggestion is that they were a species called Homo antecessor, which was known to have lived in southern Europe. It is thought that these people could have made their way to what is now Norfolk across a strip of land that connected the UK to the rest of Europe a million years ago. They would have disappeared around 800,000 years ago because of a much colder climate setting in not long after the footprints were made.

It was not until 500,000 years ago that a species called Homo heidelbergensis lived in the UK. It is thought that these people evolved into early Neanderthals some 400,000 years ago. The Neanderthals then lived in Britain intermittently until about 40,000 years ago - a time that coincided with the arrival of our species, Homo sapiens.

There are no fossils of antecessor in Happisburgh, but the circumstantial evidence of their presence is getting stronger by the day.
In 2010, the same research team discovered the stone tools used by such people. And the discovery of the footprints now all but confirms that humans were in Britain nearly a million years ago, according to Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, who is also involved in the research at Happisburgh.

"This discovery gives us even more concrete evidence that there were people there," he told BBC News. "We can now start to look at a group of people and their everyday activities. And if we keep looking, we will find even more evidence of them, hopefully even human fossils. That would be my dream".

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26025763
 
A flint axe found by fisherman along the Waterford coast may be one of the oldest artifacts ever found in Ireland. Tests will be carried out in coming weeks to determine the age of the axe, which is believed to be hundreds of thousands of years old.

The Irish Times reports that a group of fisherman found the axe while they were trawling for scallops off Creaden Head near Woodstown in Co Waterford.

The fisherman gave the axe to the Waterford History Group, which has arranged to have it tested at University College Cork.

Local historians have pointed out similarities between the flint axe and one found in 2001 in Norfolk, which turned out to be about 700,000 years old.

“That was a game-changer over there because they had to re-write the history books in the UK,” said Vincent O’Brien, of the Waterford History Group..

The Waterford axe “proves that there was a tribe of people here in Ireland over a million years ago, and possibly more,” he said.

http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/h...December 13&utm_term=The Best of IrishCentral
 
Even then they had the khan do attitude.

First farmers in Britain were horsemen from the Steppes

The origins of agriculture in western Europe can be traced to two waves of migration from modern-day Turkey and Ukraine that began about 8,500 years ago, researchers in Sweden have said.

Farmers from Anatolia, that area of Turkey west of a line drawn from the southeastern shores of the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, were the first to move northwest, according to the team at the University of Uppsala, who used ancient DNA and carbon-dated plant remains to show how plant cultivation was introduced to areas then still inhabited by hunter-gatherer societies.

That led to the Neolithic revolution, during which societies began forming permanent settlements and farming animals. The migration and the changes it brought with it reached as far northwest as the British Isles.

The second wave of migrants were the Yamnaya people from the Pontic steppe, between the Dniester and Ural rivers in modern-day Ukraine, who are believed to have brought horse-herding and early Indo-European languages with them as they moved west into Europe at the start of the Bronze Age, about 5,000 years ago.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six...tain-were-horsemen-from-the-steppes-pb2b6txfc
 
I came across this beautifully made 2 hour long documentary on Britain's standing stones.

I can thoroughly recommend it for those who like that sort of thing.

 
The Standing with Stones series was on a local Public Community Channel (Chiltern area) about 3 years ago. I tracked down the DVD but it was only available in Region 1 (USA). Love Soskin, what you see is what you get is you explore these sites on yor own. Glad to see the out-takes (blooper reel) is also on Youtube.
 
The Standing with Stones series was on a local Public Community Channel (Chiltern area) about 3 years ago. I tracked down the DVD but it was only available in Region 1 (USA). Love Soskin, what you see is what you get is you explore these sites on yor own. Glad to see the out-takes (blooper reel) is also on Youtube.

I visited many of those sites in my youth, so it was lovely to see them again especially as the UK and I parted company in 1997 and they don't seem to be do keen on standing stone circles where I call home these days.
 
Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk
By Pallab Ghosh, Science correspondent, BBC News
[Video: Dr Nick Ashton shows Pallab Ghosh where the footprints were found]

Scientists have discovered the earliest evidence of human footprints outside of Africa, on the Norfolk Coast in the East of England.
The footprints are more than 800,000 years old and were found on the shores of Happisburgh.
They are direct evidence of the earliest known humans in northern Europe.

Details of the extraordinary markings have been published in the science journal Plos One.
The footprints have been described as "one of the most important discoveries, if not the most important discovery that has been made on [Britain's] shores," by Dr Nick Ashton of the British Museum.
"It will rewrite our understanding of the early human occupation of Britain and indeed of Europe," he told BBC News.

The markings were first indentified in May last year during a low tide. Rough seas had eroded the sandy beach to reveal a series of elongated hollows.

I walked with Dr Ashton along the shore where the discovery was made. He recalled how he and a colleague stumbled across the hollows: "At the time, I wondered 'could these really be the case? If it was the case, these could be the earliest footprints outside Africa and that would be absolutely incredible."

Such discoveries are very rare. The Happisburgh footprints are the only ones of this age in Europe and there are only three other sets that are older, all of which are in Africa.

"At first, we weren't sure what we were seeing," Dr Ashton told me, "but it was soon clear that the hollows resembled human footprints."
The hollows were washed away not long after they were identified. The team were, however, able to capture the footprints on video that will be shown at an exhibition at London's Natural History Museum later this month.

The video shows the researchers on their hands and knees in cold, driving rain, engaged in a race against time to record the hollows. Dr Ashton recalls how they scooped out rainwater from the footprints so that they could be photographed. "But the rain was filling the hollows as quickly as we could empty them," he told me.

The team took a 3D scan of the footprints over the following two weeks. A detailed analysis of these images by Dr Isabelle De Groote of Liverpool John Moores University confirmed that the hollows were indeed human footprints, possibly of five people, one adult male and some children.

Dr De Groote said she could make out the heel, arch and even toes in some of the prints, the largest of which would have filled a UK shoe size 8 (European size 42; American size 9) .

"When I was told about the footprints, I was absolutely stunned," Dr De Groote told BBC News.
"They appear to have been made by one adult male who was about 5ft 9in (175cm) tall and the shortest was about 3ft. The other larger footprints could come from young adult males or have been left by females. The glimpse of the past that we are seeing is that we have a family group moving together across the landscape."

It is unclear who these humans were. One suggestion is that they were a species called Homo antecessor, which was known to have lived in southern Europe. It is thought that these people could have made their way to what is now Norfolk across a strip of land that connected the UK to the rest of Europe a million years ago. They would have disappeared around 800,000 years ago because of a much colder climate setting in not long after the footprints were made.

It was not until 500,000 years ago that a species called Homo heidelbergensis lived in the UK. It is thought that these people evolved into early Neanderthals some 400,000 years ago. The Neanderthals then lived in Britain intermittently until about 40,000 years ago - a time that coincided with the arrival of our species, Homo sapiens.

There are no fossils of antecessor in Happisburgh, but the circumstantial evidence of their presence is getting stronger by the day.
In 2010, the same research team discovered the stone tools used by such people. And the discovery of the footprints now all but confirms that humans were in Britain nearly a million years ago, according to Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, who is also involved in the research at Happisburgh.

"This discovery gives us even more concrete evidence that there were people there," he told BBC News. "We can now start to look at a group of people and their everyday activities. And if we keep looking, we will find even more evidence of them, hopefully even human fossils. That would be my dream".

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26025763

A recent (July 2020) scientific analysis of the Happisburgh footprints, the earliest known human footprints outside Africa and commonly known as the First Britons.
The footprints, thought to be Homo antecessor (aka Pioneer Man) are "morphologically similar to other presumed Homo tracks and differ from the Laetoli footprints."

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0047248420300373

Although living 1.2 to 0.8 million years ago during the early Pleistocene, the fragmentary remains of Homo antecessor are "strikingly similar to modern humans":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_antecessor

A (possibly fanciful) reconstruction of Homo antecessor:

pioneer.png
 
Worthy of mention on this thread is the remarkable Clacton spear.
Discovered in sediment in Clacton-on-Sea in 1911, it is a 37cm length of yew wood, shaped to a point and, at the time of writing, is the oldest known worked wooden artefact on Earth.
It's on display in the Natural History Museum, where its age is given as 420,000 years.
This pre-dates the known evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens and there is debate as to whether the creator of the spear was a Neanderthal or Homo heidelbergensis.

spear.png


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clacton_Spear
 
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