800,000-year-old human footprints found outside AfricaFeatured Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
Footprints aged over 800,000 years have been discovered on the Norfolk Coast in the East of England and scientist say that they may be the earliest human footprints to be found outside of Africa. The prints have been discovered at an excavating site on the shores of Happisburgh.
The markings were found by a group of experts from the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and Queen Mary University of London. Details of it has been published in the science journal Plos One and the finding has been hailed as “one of the most important discoveries, if not the most important discovery that has been made on Britain’s shores.”
The ancient prints came to light when the sea eroded away a part of a beach in May last year. The footprints however had been washed away by the waves and only one had been salvaged.
Scientists are currently analyzing digital images at the site to find out more about their owners. The prints are said to have most likely belonged to a small group of about one or two adult males, two or three adult females, and three or four children. Archaeologists also predict that they probably belonged to a long-extinct Hominid species Homo antecessor.
“These people were of a similar height to ourselves and were fully bipedal,” says Dr Nick Ashton from the British Museum. “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.” He added that the footprints provide a very tangible link to our forebears and deep past.
The excavation work at Happisburgh is to be a part of a new major exhibition at the Natural History Museum Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story to open on the 13th of February.