Happisburgh in Norfolk, England has one of the strangest and oldest group of footprints ever found. Project Happisburgh has certainly in theory found in the oldest preserved footprints in Britain and also out of Africa, nearly one million years old.
The footprints are more than 800,000 years old and were found on the shores of Happisburgh.
The markings were first identified in May last year during a low tide. Rough seas had eroded the sandy beach to reveal a series of elongated hollows ... The hollows were washed away not long after they were identified.
Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk | BBC
Due to current geology and history theories these footprints discovered at the bottom of the infamous eroding Norfolk sand cliffs the footprints have to be that old.
But considering the changes in the environment that the area known as Norfolk has known over nearly a million years, from warm to tropical to cold to ice ages covering how have these early human footprints survived?
Britain's 800,000 years old footprints
One of the other benefits of severe coastal erosion of East Anglia apart from the exposure of septarian concretions (septarian nodules) and Seahenge, is the instant fossilisation of humanoid/hominin footprints at Happisburgh. After nearly a million years they lasted less than 2 weeks before coming victim to the relentless sea erosion.
discovered a series of footprints left by early humans in ancient estuary muds over 800,000 years ago at Happisburgh in Norfolk.
So who were they? Unfortunately there are no human bones from Britain of this age, but the most likely candidate is Homo antecessor or ‘Pioneer Man’ ...
The earliest human footprints outside Africa | British Museum
But if items preserved in sediment can be quickly destroyed by changes in the water level content, considering the immense changes in norfolk environment in and from the paleolithic times then how have the plant remains remained intact?
Preserved in waterlogged clay, silt and gravel, a stunning array of plants, mammals and insects makes the fossil beds at Happisburgh among the most impressive from any Early Palaeolithic site in the world.
Fossils from Happisburgh | British Museum
The footprints were found in sediment, partially covered by beach sand, at low tide on the foreshore at Happisburgh. The sediment had been laid down in the estuary of a long-vanished river and subsequently been covered by sand, preserving its surface. The layer of sediment underlies a cliff on the beach, but after stormy weather the protective layer of sand was washed away and the sediment exposed. Because of the softness of the sediment, which lay below the high tide mark, tidal action eroded it, and within two weeks the footprints had been destroyed.
Discovery - Happisburgh footprints | Wikipedia
Geology changes and climate changes
Britain and Norfolks environment and geology has massively changed in the last million years. How have all the human evidence, human tracks, plants and animals been preserved and not destroyed in all these amazing changes including the ancient River Thames flowing through Norfolk?
Environmental data suggests that temperatures were relatively cool. This raises the possibility that these early Britons may have been among the first humans to use fire to keep warm. They may also have been some of the earliest humans to wear fur clothing.
Humans' early arrival in Britain | BBC
The ice age coverings also include massive amounts of glacial moved material deposited on top of the previous strata. Most recently with the glacial moraine from the Devensian Glaciation that formed the literally outstanding terminal moraine of North Norfolk's Cromer Ridge.
During the earliest periods of human occupation, the geography of Britain differed considerably from that of today. Britain was not an island but a peninsula of the north-west European continent.
There was no English Channel, but a precursor of the river Thames flowed, far to the north of its present valley, reaching the North Sea at Happisburgh.
Early Britain - Happisburgh on Thames
Chronology and history changes
How old are humans? The dating of the 'earliest humans' keeps being pushed further back into our planets history.
‘This is an extraordinarily rare discovery. The Happisburgh site continues to re-write our understanding of the early human occupation of Britain, and indeed, of Europe.’ ... The age of the site is based on examination of glacial deposits overlying the finds, which contain extinct animals and environmental evidence dating back more than 800,000 years. The footprints come from the same deposits.
Earliest human footprints outside Africa found – in Norfolk | Current Archaeology
How do the Happisburgh footprints change East Anglia's, Britain's, Europe's and the worlds chronology and history? What revisionism will be needed now and in the future?
When did the first people arrive in what is now Britain? Ongoing research into an extraordinary concentration of Palaeolithic sites on the coasts of Norfolk and Suffolk has uncovered evidence of human activity dating back about 900,000 years — almost twice as long as previously thought ...
Dozens of cutting and piercing implements have been found in thick layers of sediment known as the Cromer Forest Bed. Some of these deposits are thought to have been laid down either 840,000or 950,000 years ago, making the artefacts recovered from them the earliest currently known in Britain, and indeed northern Europe ... These layers of sands, gravels, and mud reflect the fact that 900,000 years ago Happisburgh lay 15 miles further inland than its present position, beside an estuary formed of two rivers. These were the Thames — which once flowed through Norfolk and Suffolk, over 100 miles north of its present course — and the now extinct Bytham, which ran across the Midlands and through East Anglia, before debouching into what is now the North Sea.
Colonising Britain – One million years of our human story | Current Archaeology
Britains earliest human ancestors rely on the dating of the geological layers, which gives the surprising age. Could these captured foot tracks be much younger or older?