A team from the British Museum, the Natural History Museum and the University of London uncovered 50 footprints belonging to prehistoric humans, estimated to be about 800,000 years old, in England. The most ancient found outside of Africa, and the earliest evidence of ancient human life in northern Europe.
The prints were exposed last year by coastal erosion, after being preserved for thousands of years underneath layers of silt and sand. The prints belonged to a group – two children and one adult male. The researchers said the humans who left the footprints may have been related to Homo antecessor, a species of hominid that went extinct approximately 800,000 years ago.
Nick Ashton, British Museum archeologist, said that 800,000 is a “conservative estimate” and could be as much as 1 million years old – which is still 100,000 years older than the previous earliest evidence of human activity in Britain.
Scientist speculate that, during the time the prints were left, Britain was as cold as modern southern Sweden – temperatures reached as low as 5 fahrenheit (sounds like the tri-state area after a “winter vortex”). Therefore, the humans that inhabited the area at the time had to be wearing clothes or had extremely thick and dense body hair.
“These footprints are immensely rare – and are the first examples of such great age to have been found outside Africa. They are of huge international significance because they give us a very tangible link to the first humans to inhabit northern Europe, including Britain,” Ashton said.
Ashton went on to say that the footprints are “a tangle link to our earliest human relatives.”