Friday, 7 February 2014

Oldest hominin footprint surface outside Africa found

Research by a team of scientists, including  Dr Richard Bates of the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, believe they have found the oldest hominin footprint surface outside of Africa, with an estimated date between 1 and 0.78 million years ago. Analysis of the newly discovered elongate prints at the site at Happisburgh, Norfolk, suggest a mixed-age group of both juveniles and adults. In many cases, the arches, fronts, in one case including toes, and backs of the feet can be seen. The footprints, which indicate movement in a southerly direction along a river, were subsequently buried by thick sequences of deposits when East Anglia was covered in ice around half a million years ago. The only known species in Europe of the age of the footprints are Homo antecessor. It was at the Happisburgh site that in the early 2000s artefacts and associated plant and animal remains were recorded as the earliest evidence outside southern Europe for human activity, extending the record of human occupation of Northern Europe by 350,000 years. Biological remains suggest these people were living in an environment similar to that of present-day southern Scandinavia. [PLOS ONE article] [BBC News story]
From 13 February to 28 September 2014, the research from Happisburgh will feature in a new exhibit on Palaeolithic Britain “Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story” at the Natural History Museum. Much of this work is a result of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) project funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) project is highlighted in the Leverhulme Trust Annual Review 2013.