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Oldest ancient human ancestor footprints ever discovered in Britain

The first evidence of human occupation of Britain by early human ancestors was presented by a team of scientists led by Queen Mary University of London, the British Museum, and the Natural History Museum in London that was published in the Feb. 7, 2014, edition of the journal Public Library of Science.

Photographs of Area A at Happisburgh.a) View of footprint surface looking north. b. View of footprint surface looking south, also showing underlying horizontally bedded laminated silts.
Photos: Simon Parfitt. Nick Ashton et al. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088329.g004
Photographs of Area A at Happisburgh. Footprint surface looking north-east. b. Detail of footprint surface.
Photos: Martin Bates. Nick Ashton et al. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088329.g005

The Early Pleistocene evidence of human ancestors in Britain was found in Happisburgh in the United Kingdom and dates to between 780,000 years ago and one million years ago.

The researchers found the footprints of as many as twelve different early humans during a period in May 2013 when the waters near Happisburgh had receded. A rigorous analysis of photographic evidence and dating indicate that the first early humans or early human ancestors in Britain were three adults and nine children or adolescents based on the depth of the footprints. Evidence of human flint knapping had been found at the site that dated to 350,000 years ago.

The shape and size of the footprints and the reconstruction of the feet that made the footprints from present evidence indicates the first known early human ancestors in Britain could have been Homo antecessor, Homo heidelbergensis, and or late Neanderthals.

Recent reevaluations of the age of Homo antecessor found in Spain correlates well with the age of the footprints.

These are the earliest known evidence of the presence of human or early human ancestor in Britain. The researchers consider that Britain may have been physically a part of Europe during the time or was separated by a narrow and shallow channel that allowed the hunter-gatherers to venture into Britain for perhaps the first time. This is the first evidence of any human ancestor of this age living outside of Africa.

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