Natural History Museum project: Earliest human footprints ever discovered outside Africa found on Happisburgh ...
Natural History Museum project: Earliest human footprints ever discovered outside Africa found on Ha...
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Natural History Museum project: Earliest human footprints ever discovered outside Africa found on Happisburgh ...
Natural History Museum project: Earliest human footprints
ever discovered outside Africa found on Happisburgh ...
Natural History Museum project: Earliest human footprints ever discovered outside Africa found on
Happisburgh beach in Norfolk - Mirror Online
The earliest human footprints ever to be discovered outside Africa have been found on a Norfolk
Scientists have confirmed the astonishing discovery after excavating a site in Happisburgh over the
The footprints, thought to date back more than 800,000 years, have been hailed as "one of the most
important discoveries, if not the most important discovery that has been made on Britain's shores."
"It will rewrite our understanding of the early human occupation of Britain and indeed of Europe,"
Dr Nick Ashton from the British Museum told BBC News.
The Happisburgh prints are direct evidence of the earliest human existence in northern Europe, he
Only three other sets of footprints, discovered in Africa, are more ancient.
"Footprints on Happisburgh beach View gallery
Researchers say the footprints belong to a group of five different people, possible one adult male
and some children.
The male footprint would roughly fit an adult size 8 shoe, indicating a man around 5ft 7 tall.
The prints were exposed after the sea eroded away an area of sandy beach last May.
But Dr Ashton's team had to quickly battle to record what they had found before the prints were
destroyed by the elements.
They took extensive video and pictures and used a scanner to capture to create a 3D model.
"At first we weren't sure what we were seeing," said Dr Ashton.
"But as we removed any remaining beach sand and sponged off the seawater, it was clear that the
hollows resembled prints, perhaps human footprints, and that we needed to record the surface as
quickly as possible before the sea eroded it away."
The team can't be sure what type of human species the prints belong to, but they believe it could be
homo antecessor - a southern European tribe known as 'Pioneer Man'.
"These people were of a similar height to ourselves and were fully bipedal," said Dr Ashton.
"They seem to have become extinct in Europe by 600,000 years ago and were perhaps replaced by
the species Homo heidelbergensis. Neanderthals followed from about 400,000 years ago, and
eventually modern humans some 40,000 years ago."
The discovery is exceptionally rare.
Only those at Laetoli in Tanzania at about 3.5 million years and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya at
about 1.5 million years are more ancient.
"These footprints provide a very tangible link to our forebears and deep past" said Dr Ashton.
The work at Happisburgh forms part of a new major exhibition at the Natural History Museum
Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story opening on 13 February.