British Oldies

8 Jul 2010

The Guardian July 7th (see www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jul/07/first-humans-britain-stone-tools/print is a story about flint tools found on a beach at Happisburgh in Norfolk that are said to be some 840,000 to 950,000 years of age, based on dating the geology (or sediments). The tools according to Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, are mint fresh and exceptionally sharp - which suggests they have not moved very far from where they were left - if at all. The discovery is reported in a paper in Nature and it is noted that stone tools have also been found at Pakefield, virtually a suburb of Lowestoft, and they date back 700,000 years. Therefore the tools are not entirely unprecedented and as the sediment was beneath Ice Age deposits this is a clear case of the geology setting the time scale. The soil in the sediment, as an aside, belonged to a period after earth's magnetic field had been reversed. The last time this happened was 780,000 years ago, it is said, and so the tools must be at least that old.

The story is also available at www.sciencenews.org July 7th and notes also the sediment was associated with fossil plants and animals. (published by S Parfitt et al, 'Early Pleistocene human occupation at the edge of the boreal zone in NW Europe', Nature 466 July 8th: 2010.