Britain’s earliest residents lived in Kent

Homo heidelbergensis Cranium. Foto Creative Commons. José-Manuel Benito Álvarez

Geplaatst door       Alun Harvey

June 2022: – In 2010, archaeologists discovered flint tools and fossilised footprints at Happisburgh in Norfolk which were dated to “somewhere around 900,000 years ago”. The finds were hailed as the earliest known evidence of humans in Britain, at least 100,000 years earlier than had been previously thought. However, Britain was considered to have been an icy landscape with freezing temperatures during that period and it was not known whether these humans were long-term residents or fleeting visitors .

Now, a team led by archaeologists at the University of Cambridge has uncovered more conclusive evidence which shows that Britain’s earliest residents lived some 600,000 years ago close to what is now the city of Canterbury in Kent. Glaciation did not reach this area, south of the River Thames, and the climate was milder.

Location of Fordwich near Canterbury, Kent. Google Maps

Location of Fordwich near Canterbury, Kent.       Google Maps

Using state of the art infrared-radiofluorescence (IR-RF) technology, the team has dated stone hand axes found at Fordwich in Kent to 540,000 to 620,000 years ago. The tools would have been made by homo heidelbergensis, a species known to have built rudimentary shelters and to have been familiar with fire. The large number of tools discovered suggests prolonged occupation of the site by a sizeable community.

The finds include scraping tools which were used to prepare animal hides. Dr Tomos Proffitt from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in Cambridge, who analysed the tools found at Fordwich, said: “These artefacts suggest that during this time people were preparing animal hides, possibly for clothing or shelters.”

The site at Fordwich was originally discovered in the 1920s and the British Museum has a collection of hand axes found there at the time. However, the site was then all but forgotten about for decades until the recent excavations began.

The findings are published in the journal Royal Society Open Science and reported in the Daily Telegraph.

Text     Alun Harvey


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