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Stone Age to Iron Age
The First Britons
There is a place on the East coast of England called Happisburgh where archaeologists have discovered bones and teeth from animals that had been eaten and stone tools.
These items date back to 950,000 years ago! These are the earliest remains that have been found in Britain but nobody knows what the Happisburgh people were like because no remains of the people themselves have been found… yet!
Don’t forget that, at this time, Britain was still a part of the European landmass as sea levels hadn’t risen to separate it.
What is known for certain is that the Happisburgh people didn’t stay in Britain. As the world cooled and entered a glacial period the ice came down from the North and would have driven those living on what is now Britain down into Europe where it was warmer.
Each time a glacial period ended, known as an interglacial period, people would once again travel around Stone Age Britain. There is evidence of this from stone tools that have been dated at 700,000 years ago.
As we travel through time, in giant steps, we come to the first remains of humans.
Dating from about 500,000 years ago, in the South East of England, is Boxgrove Man. The name may be slightly misleading as scientists don’t know for certain whether it was a man or a woman. Only two pieces of the shinbone and two teeth were found at the site in West Sussex but scientists are able to tell from these scant remains that the person was around 1.8 metres tall and would have weighed about 14 stone.
They were neither Homo sapiens or Neanderthal but Homo heidelbergensis. Homo heidelbergensis are an extinct relative of modern humans.
Other clues about Boxgrove Man come in the form of flint tools and animal remains. There have been rhinos, voles and bears found at the site – but they were all extinct species so not exactly as we would know them today.
Moving forward to 400,000 years ago we can meet Swanscombe Woman (again initially thought to have been a man) who was found in Kent. Three fragments of her skull were found by an amateur archaeologist along with animal bones and flint tools. A mammoth tooth was also found there!
Let’s step forward again to 230,000 years ago and meet the Pontnewydd People who were Neanderthals living in present-day Wales. This time it was teeth and a jawbone that were found and used to date and identify what type of hominid they were. The teeth actually belonged to an 11 year old boy!
950,000 years ago
Pontnewydd, North Wales
230,000 years ago
400,000 years ago
Boxgrove, West Sussex
500,000 years ago