The oldest human footprints ever discovered outside
The prints were left by a little group of people heading south across the estuary at Happisburgh, through a landscape where mammoths, hippos and rhinoceros grazed. Scientists believe they were a group of adults and children, including one with a foot size the equivalent of a modern size 8 shoe, suggesting a man about 5ft 7ins (1.7 metres) tall.
The footprints are the first direct evidence of the earliest known humans in northern
Within a fortnight of the discovery last May, the sea tides that had exposed the footprints destroyed them, on one of the fastest eroding parts of the East Anglian coast. However,
As winter storms continue to batter the coast, the scientists hope that further erosion may expose more footprints. Ashton said: "This is an extraordinarily rare discovery. The Happisburgh site continues to rewrite our understanding of the early human occupation of
Last May, when the sea scoured away a layer of beach sand and exposed the prints, the scientists immediately believed the long oval hollows were from a prehistoric layer. "At first we weren't sure what we were seeing," Ashton said, "but as we removed any remaining beach sand and sponged off the seawater, it was clear that the hollows resembled prints, perhaps human footprints, and that we needed to record the surface as quickly as possible before the sea eroded it away."
Photogrammetry, which combines photographs to create a 3D image, confirmed that they were indeed footprints, perhaps of five individuals. Some were clear enough to show heel, arch and toes – allowing an estimate of the height of the individuals at between 0.9m and 1.7m.
The footprints were dated from the geology, lying beneath later glacial deposits and the fossil remains of extinct animals, which
On the day the little group walked across the wet mud,
So far no fossil remains of the humans have been found.
The oldest hominid prints ever found, the
The Norfolk tracks are the oldest found outside
The oldest footprints in
The Happisburgh project, involving scientists from many British museums and universities, has been running for more than 10 years. Their discoveries form part of a new exhibition opening next week at the
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