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Happisburgh footprints

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Map showing the position of Happisburgh in the early Pleistocene, about 800,000 years ago

The oldest hominin footprints in Europe are in Britain. They are about 800,000 years to a million years old.[1][2] They were found on Happisburgh beach, East Anglia in May 2013.

The archaeologists describe them as "the oldest known hominin footprint surface outside Africa at between ca. 1 million and 0.78 million years ago". The site is known for its preservation of sediments with early Pleistocene fauna and flora. Since 2005 flint tools have been found. This means humans occupied northern Europe at least 350,000 years earlier than was thought before.

The footprints were found in sediment, partially covered by beach sand, at low tide on the shore at Happisburgh. Stormy weather had washed away the sand, leaving the sediment exposed.[3] Because the sediment was soft, and lay below the high tide mark, the tides quickly eroded the exposed sediment, and in two weeks the footprints had all been destroyed. The team worked during low tides, often in pouring rain, to record 3D images of all the footprints.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ghosh, Pallab 2014. Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk. BBC News Science & Technology. [1]
  2. Ashton, Nick et al 2014. Hominin footprints from early Pleistocene deposits at Happisburgh, UK. PLoS One.[2]
  3. Ashton, Nicholas 2014. The earliest human footprints outside Africa. British Museum. [3]