Evidence of earliest humans in northern Europe place Happisburgh centre stage in major national exhibition

A model of a Neanderthal specially created for the Natural History Museum's exhibition Britain: One Million Years Of The Human Story. Copyright: Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London A model of a Neanderthal specially created for the Natural History Museum's exhibition Britain: One Million Years Of The Human Story. Copyright: Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Thursday, January 16, 2014
8:00 AM

History-changing discoveries will place the north Norfolk coast centre stage next month when a major new national exhibition opens in London.

To send a link to this page to a friend, you must be logged in.

A model of a Homo Sapien, specially created for the Natural History Museum's forthcoming exhibition Britain: One Million Years Of The Human Story. Copyright: The Natural History Museum, LondonA model of a Homo Sapien, specially created for the Natural History Museum's forthcoming exhibition Britain: One Million Years Of The Human Story. Copyright: The Natural History Museum, London

The epic “Britain: One Million Years Of The Human Story,” at the Natural History Museum, will tell a tale which began in Happisburgh.

It is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors during its February 13-September 28 run.

Flint tools and flakes discovered on Happisburgh’s foreshore prove that man was in Britain nearly one million years ago – much earlier than archaeologists had previously believed.

The Happisburgh finds have been dated to between 800,000 years and 970,000 years ago. Beforehand, the earliest discoveries in Britain only went back 700,000 years.

The Happisburgh coastline - an archaeological treasure trove. Picture: SIMON FINLAYThe Happisburgh coastline - an archaeological treasure trove. Picture: SIMON FINLAY

John Davies, chief curator with the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, said the icing on the cake now would be to find pre-historic human bones on the north Norfolk coast.

He believed they would eventually be discovered as the coastline eroded.

“Stuff is washing out all the time. Happisburgh has the fastest-receding stretch of coastline in the whole of Europe and it’s changing all the time. I’m sure we will find skeletal remains one day,” he said.

“The discoveries at Happisburgh tell us about the first human inhabitants in the whole of northern Europe. They are of enormous importance,” he added.

The Happisburgh hand axe.The Happisburgh hand axe.

“Happisburgh has become the focus of national and international attention. It’s posing questions as profound as looking at the motivation for the colonisation of western Europe by humans – where and why did they expand out of Africa?”

Flint material discovered at Happisburgh between 2005-2010 by archaeologists from the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (Ahob) project, is expected to be on show at the exhibition.

But the crown jewel of the area’s treasures, the Happisburgh handaxe, which is about 700,000 years old, will not be heading for the Natural History Museum.

It will stay in Norwich where it is currently part of the exhibition Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia, at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

Dr John Davies, chief curator and keeper of archaeology at Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service.  Photo by Simon Finlay.Dr John Davies, chief curator and keeper of archaeology at Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Its discovery, by ex-policeman Mike Chambers in 2000, had opened the archaeological floodgates, said Mr Davies.

“We had always know that strata related to the Cromer Forest Bed was very ancient but, until then, there had been no evidence of human occupation. Suddenly it was there, and it was there big-time.”

The Norfolk museums’ service will be lending the exhibition bones believed to be three quarters of a million years old, found on the county’s east coast in the 19th century.

Modern research has identified them as a new species, Robert’s fallow deer.

As well as pre-historic finds, the London exhibition will feature the changing faces of ancient Britons through imagery and specially-commissioned life-size models of a Neanderthal and Homo sapiens.

2 comments

  • How can we prove that these men are early humans? Yes, you've guessed it! Lets have a panto!

    Report this comment

    backwoodsman

    Friday, January 17, 2014

  • I've seen the first two blokes going into some of the pubs in Cromer.

    Report this comment

    backwoodsman

    Thursday, January 16, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Norfolk Weather

Overcast

Overcast

max temp: 12°C

min temp: 12°C

Five-day forecast

loading...

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT