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Earliest evidence of human occupation in Britain

7 July 2010

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Simon Parfitt (Senior Research Fellow), has been part of a team of archaeologists, palaeontologists and earth scientists who have unearthed the earliest evidence of human occupation in Britain. 

The excavation at Happisburgh, Norfolk (co-directed by Simon and funded by the British Museum) forms part of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Project, itself funded by the Leverhulme Trust.  The research, published in Nature, reveals over 70 flint tools and flakes excavated on the foreshore at Happisburgh, and demonstrating that ancient humans occupied Britain over 800,000 years ago, marking the first known settlement in northern Europe- far earlier than previously thought. 

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Tools found at Happisburgh provide the first record of Early Pleistocene human occupation on the edges of the cooler (boreal) northern forests of Eurasia. Living near these forests would have presented a range of new challenges to the people living there. The evidence from Happisburgh also indicates that the site lay on an ancient course of the River Thames.

The site at Happisburgh is exceptional due to the unprecedented preservation of original materials, in effect a complete buried landscape is in existence.

Further information about the project is available on the UCL website.