Scientists have found the oldest known stone tools from the British Isles. These tools, from the Happisburgh site on England’s southeast coast, are more than 780,000 years old, and could be 970,000 years old. The find may signal the first early human migration across a land bridge to a latitude higher than 40ºN. Fossil pollen and beetles found with the tools indicate a cold, forested environment at 45ºN.
Previously, no one thought that early humans so long ago could survive northern winters. Early humans may have moved to the region during a cold, forested time, or the tools may indicate the last survivors of a migration in a much warmer time. Their ability to hunt many animal species near this site all year round may have helped. Scientists do not know which early human species lived this far north, although it may have been an early ancestor of Homo heidelbergensis, a reconstruction of which is seen below.
The findings were published July 8, 2010, in the journal Nature.