Humans in Britain earlier than thought

3 Jun 2010

The Independent June 1st ... until last month there was no evidence of humans in Britain between 200,000 and 65,000 years ago - but that was only because no evidence had been found. Now it has - humans were here 110,000 years ago - the trusty Neanderthals. Southampton University and Oxford Archaeology have discovered stone tools in Kent and it is being floated that humans were able to cross from France to SE England because sea levels were so low. This comes towards the end of the last interglacial period when it is thought ice caps shrank and sea levels rose. However, temperatures are said to have suddenly plummeted and enabled the Neanderthals to reach the other side of what is now the English Channel. The journalist even adds the caveat, perhaps they could see the English cliffs from the French side, which raises some interesting geology. If the Channel was not created until around 6200BC how could there have been any white cliffs to see? In fact, this raises the whole question of rising and lowering sea levels in response to Ice Ages - did the Channel develop during every interglacial? and the water disappear during every glacial? Are they guessing? Do they assume that as in their theory a lot of ice was locked up in the far north (including Scotland) in a series of ice sheets that advanced and retracted, this means that sea levels rose and fell - but did they? Why would the cliffs around the boundaries of the Channel be eroding so rapidly nowadays if it had happened previously - on a number of occasions? It is not just that the sea has risen to gouge out huge holes in the soft cliffs (formerly hills with farms) of Devon and Dorset which have become landmarks such as Lyme Bay or Torbay and that the Channel has been getting wider over the last 8000 years or so -  how could these cliffs be intact if the same process had happened during a previous interglacial - and some of them were warmer than the Holocene.

However, don't hold your breath about the new findings as the dating method used was optically stimulated luminescence methodology which came under fire when it was used to date footprints in volcanic ash in the Americas (and put humans in the Americas too early for some). See also June 1st and see what you think.