Fossil roadshow turns up treasures - including a second Happisburgh handaxe

10:29 07 October 2012

Mark Askew with a 600,000-year-old handaxe found at Happisburgh.

Mark Askew with a 600,000-year-old handaxe found at Happisburgh.


A fossil roadshow was a mammoth success on Saturday as experts were wowed by a host of new Norfolk finds - including another Happisburgh handaxe.

Scores of people attended the event at Cromer Museum, bringing relics of all shapes and sizes.

Highlights from the afternoon included the top of a one million year old mammoth femur found at Sidestrand and a section of a huge ammonite found at Trimingham.

But the most exciting moment came when Mark Askew showed experts a flint handaxe that he found on the beach at Happisburgh in 1995.

The relic was a finer example than a similar find made in 2000 - which radically altered historians’ understanding of our past, revealing that Britain had been inhabited by human beings for 100,000 years longer than had been previously thought.

The two flint handaxes was used by our early ancestors as a butchery tool to carve flesh off skeletons between 500,000 and 700,000 years ago.

Martin Warren, a former Cromer Museum curator, said: “In 1995 the significance of the find was not fully understood.”

He said advances in technology had enabled experts to date the handaxe found in 2000, and find out information about the climate at the time.

That had made the 1995 find “considerably” more significant. He said it was likely to be from the same period, and was a “beautiful piece of craftsmanship”.

The ammonite, believed to be 150 million years old and brought in by Mearl and Tracey Brown from Cromer, was found two years ago and caused great excitement when it was inspected by Nigel Larkin, a natural history research associate at Norwich Castle Museum.

He said: “I’ve never seen anything like it in Norfolk. It is probably from Yorkshire, and moved down here when the ice melted. It’s preserved in pyrite. It has the fossils of smaller ammonites on it, too. I would be very happy if I ever found it.”

The mammoth femur, from a young animal, was brought to the museum by Kate Royall. It was identified as having hyena teeth marks on it.

Miss Royall said: “It was found 45 years ago by my dad, Ian, when he was about nine. He used to go down to the beach with his father.”

The event was a collaboration between Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, the Natural History Museum, the British Museum and English Heritage.

Dr Nick Ashton, British Museum palaeolithic archaeologist, said: “Cromer forest bed is an internationally-known fossil area, from Sheringham to Lowestoft.

“The idea behind today is to record in a more consistent way and show people their importance. We want to know what the items are and where they come from.”

John Davies, chief curator for Norfolk Museums Service, said: “This is great. I wasn’t sure that we would get so much take up, but people have been queuing all afternoon.”

A mystery fossil brought in by Dr Dennis and Linda Cotton from West Beckham stumped the experts and will be sent away for further investigation.

Meanwhile the Catchpole family from Dereham had an exciting afternoon.

Eddy and Jan, daughter Joanne Elphick and grandson Rufus brought some finds - including two vertebrae from an ichthyosaur, found at Hunstanton, and a mammoth tooth found at Pakefield.


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