Saturday, February 8, 2014
Earliest human footprints outside Africa discovered in NORFOLK: 800,000-year-old imprints 're-write our understanding of history'
- Early humans were related to Homo antecessor known as ‘Pioneer Man’
- Species dates from 1.2 million ago and became extinct 600,000 years ago
- 50 prints were made by children and adults with one being a UK size 8
- Scientists estimate heights varied from 0.9m (3ft) to over 1.7m (5ft 7ins)
- Prints were found at Happisburgh in May last year but quickly eroded away
- Scientists stitched together photographs to create a permanent 3D record
- It is hoped new footprints will be revealed as winter storms batter the coast
PUBLISHED: 10:38, 7 February 2014 | UPDATED: 18:34, 7 February 2014
The earliest footprints left by humans outside Africa have been found in estuary mud in Norfolk.
Described as 'the most important discovery on British shores', the 800,000-year-old footprints were found in Happisburgh after being exposed by sea tides.
Scientists believe the footprints are evidence of the earliest known humans in northern Europe, previously only revealed through the discovery of animal bones and stone tools.
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Analysis from the British Museum showed the prints, pictured, were from a range of adult and juvenile foot sizes and that in some cases the heel, arch and even toes could be identified, equating to modern shoes of up to UK size 8. The camera lens cap is used for scale
The footprint surface was exposed at low tide as heavy seas removed the beach sands to reveal a series of elongated hollows cut into compacted silts.
Of the 50 footprints found, only around twelve were reasonably complete while two showed the toes in detail.
'We had no idea what we were looking at,' Dr Nick Ashton of the British Museum told MailOnline.'But it was nothing like we had seen before.'
'I had a feeling it could be very significant, but we could see that the tide was washing it away as quickly as it had exposed it.'
Acting on gut instinct and despite torrential rain, Dr Ashton and his team set to work to record the surface before it was eroded.
Over the next two weeks the team used photogrammetry, a technique that can stitch together digital photographs to create a permanent record and 3D images of the surface.
A team of scientists led by the British Museum have discovered a series of footprints left by early humans in estuary muds over 800,000 years ago. This image shows the range of footprint hollows found in the sediment on the beach at Happisburgh, Norfolk
It was the analysis of these images that confirmed that the elongated hollows were indeed ancient human footprints, perhaps of five individuals.
'I remember the moment I found out these were human footprints,' said Dr Ashton.
'I was sitting at my desk, I opened an email with an attachment of the images, and I was absolutely astonished.
'You know that feeling you get when a shiver goes down your spine...these are without a doubt the oldest human footprints in Europe and some of the oldest in the world.'
Dr Ashton describes the study, described in science journal PLOS ONE, as 'a truly remarkable discovery.’
It is thought that the prints represent a group of at least one or two adult males, at least two adult females or teenagers and three or four children.
In some cases the heel, arch and even toes could be identified, equating to modern shoes of up to UK size 8.
The early humans would have looked very much like us, but with much smaller brains, said Dr Ashton.
‘PIONEER MAN’: WHO WAS HOMO ANTECESSOR?
Dr Isabelle De Groote from Liverpool John Moores University studied the prints in more detail.
‘In some cases we could accurately measure the length and width of the footprints and estimate the height of the individuals who made them,’ she said.
‘In most populations today and in the past foot length is approximately 15 per cent of height. We can therefore estimate that the heights varied from about 0.9m (3ft) to over 1.7m (5ft 7in).
‘This height range suggests a mix of adults and children with the largest print possibly being a male.’
The orientation of the footprints suggests that they were heading in a southerly direction.
It is thought the group could have made their way to what is now Norfolk across a strip of land that connected Britain to the rest of Europe a million years ago.
Over the last ten years the sediments at Happisburgh have revealed a series of sites with stone tools and fossil bones, dating back to over 800,000 years. This latest discovery is from the same deposits.
VIDEO: Earliest human footprints outside Africa found in Norfolk
The footprint surface on the beach in Norfolk, pictured, was exposed at low tide as beach sands revealed a series of hollows cut into compacted silts. Dr Nick Ashton said: 'It was clear the hollows resembled prints, and we needed to record the surface as quickly as possible before the sea eroded it away'
Scientists created this model of the the footprints using photogrammetric survey data. The left-hand Rose diagram below the model reveals the orientation data for 49 of the prints, while the right-hand diagram shows the direction of movement for 29 prints
FOOTSTEPS OF OUR ANCESTORS PLOTTED AROUND THE WORLD
‘Although we knew that the sediments were old, we had to be certain that the hollows were also ancient and hadn’t been created recently,’ said Dr Simon Lewis, a geoarchaeologist at Queen Mary University of London.
‘There are no known erosional processes that create that pattern. In addition, the sediments are too compacted for the hollows to have been made recently .’
The age of the site is based on its geological position beneath the glacial deposits that form the cliffs, but also the association with extinct animals.
Simon Parfitt of the Natural History Museum and University College London has studied the mammalian fossils from Happisburgh.
‘These include an extinct type of mammoth, extinct horse and early forms of vole. Together they support an age of over 800,000 years.’
The site also preserves plant remains and pollen, together with beetles and shells, which allows a detailed reconstruction of the landscape.
At this time Britain was linked by land to continental Europe and the site at Happisburgh would have been on the banks of a wide estuary several miles from the coast.
Dr Nick Ashton from the British Museum examines sediment from the ancient estuary muds on the coast of Happisburgh. The age of the site is based on its geological position beneath the glacial deposits that form the cliffs
This diagram shows the analysis of footprints found in Happisburgh. The top image shows the 12 prints used to establish our ancient ancestor's footprint size. The chart plots the length and width measurements of these 12 prints showing possible individuals. Foot measurements for modern populations are shown in the key
WHAT DO THE FOOTPRINTS TELL US ABOUT EARLY MAN?
There would have been muddy freshwater pools on the floodplain with salt marsh and coast nearby.
Deer, bison, mammoth, hippo and rhino grazed the river valley, surrounded by more dense coniferous forest.
The estuary provided a rich array of resources for the early humans with edible plant tubers, seaweed and shellfish nearby, while the grazing herds would have provided meat through hunting or scavenging.
So who were these humans? Fossil remains of our forebears are still proving elusive.
However, as Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum explains: ‘The humans who made the Happisburgh footprints may well have been related to the people of similar antiquity from Atapuerca in Spain, assigned to the species Homo antecessor.
‘These people were of a similar height to ourselves and were fully bipedal. They seem to have become extinct in Europe by 600,000 years ago and were perhaps replaced by the species Homo heidelbergensis.
The footprints were found in Happisburgh, on the east coast of Norfolk. During the past decade, sediments at Happisburgh have revealed sites with stone tools and fossil bones, dating back over 800,000 years
‘Neanderthals followed from about 400,000 years ago, and eventually modern humans some 40,000 years ago.’
The importance of the Happisburgh footprints is highlighted by the rarity of footprints surviving elsewhere.
Only those at Laetoli in Tanzania at about 3.5 million years and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya at about 1.5 million years are more ancient.
‘These footprints provide a very tangible link to our forebears and deep past,’ said Nick Ashton.
The work at Happisburgh continues, but as the cliffs erode, new sites are being discovered, but also destroyed by the encroaching sea.
The footprints were unfortunately rapidly eroded away, but it is hoped that new footprints will be revealed as winter storms batter the coast.
'There is plenty more to be discovered. Erosion both exposes those sediments but also destroys this evidence,' said Dr Ashton.
The team are now working with local people to monitor the area and will be combing nearby sites in the hope of finding more footprints and human bone.
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Wednesday, February 5, 2014
The Cotswolds: A Treasure Trove of Spectacular Images Showing the Ever-changing Seasons, by Cotswold Photographer Nicholas Reardon
These glorious hills, rightly described as an area of outstanding natural beauty, contain a treasure trove of spectacular views, along with flowers and wildlife just asking to be photographed. In the following pages I take you through the seasons, offering just a taste of what can be seen, in the hope that it will tempt you to explore this wonderful countryside for yourselves. From hidden gems like the stone crocodile head on a fresh water spring in Compton Abdale, and fearsome gargoyles staring down at you from ancient churches, to the grandeur of castles and the splendour of stately homes, I hope to bring the Cotswolds alive for you with the help of my camera. So as not to spoil the images with excess wording I have let the pictures speak for themselves but at the back of the book you will find a page-by-page explanation of the photographs, along with the locations.
Cotswold Town and Village guide
What a gem of a book. I was looking at it on here several times over a two week period while making my selection on a guide for the Cotswolds. I choose it as it was called "The Definitive Guide" so figured it had to be fairly good. What a shock when it arrived, as fairly good is a masterpiece of understatement! The book is about the only one you will need as it features everything of interest in this region. We had planned for five days here, looks like we will need to extend that. Peter Titchmarsh has lovingly put together years of research in this 170 page volume leaving the reader with what I can only call "The Perfect Guide Book" Lots of photographs and jammed packed from cover to cover with information. Look around all you want, you won't find a better guide to the Cotswolds. And even if you are not planning to go there, buy it, it makes a great read and you will soon add the Cotswolds to your holiday list.
"The Cotswold Town and Village Guide": The latest fully updated edition of the "Definitive Guide to Places of Interest in the Cotswolds" as the author says this is the result of my continuing love affair with the Cotswolds, an area that I have known for most of my life and one that I have been visiting with my camera and notebook for well over fifty years. A glance at the maps contained in this book will soon reveal that the area covered extends well beyond the classic Cotswolds, but it never strays far from true limestone country with its typically lovely stone towns and villages. These are enfolded by rolling hills and quiet wooded valleys through which clear streams flow and all have a similar character to the better-known places of pilgrimage like Stow on the Wold, Cirencester, Bourton-on-the-Water or Broadway. Of course these favourites have not been ignored. The Cotswold countryside is as near to perfection as one could wish for, but it is still further enhanced by the treasures to be found within its towns, villages and hamlets. Here are some of Britain's loveliest medieval churches and domestic buildings, almost all of which are built of the marvellous honey coloured Cotswold stone that here lies so close to the surface. When setting out on your journeys of discovery, savour each day and not try to cover too much ground - it has taken me most of a lifetime to get round it all! If possible buy a good map or maps (preferably Ordnance Survey ones) and walk from village to village along a quiet footpath or bridleway, stopping beside a stream for a picnic, or at a pub for lunch. This is another book from Reardon Publishing the Cotswold Publisher.
A self help guide by Amy Mah (Vampire) for teenage vampire girls, the guide is fully illustrated by manga Artist Heby and is written in an easy to follow A - Z format explaining everything a teenage vampire girl would need to know about living life as a modern Vampire. What is fashionable to wear when eating out? Fang maintenance & how to keep your claws sharp. Should you let a boy bite you on the first date? Easy to understand clear advice is given to every day problems Example: When you get an urge to bite: We all get those normal urges to bite things, and I must point out it is very normal, Claws are all well and good in a fight but a bite gives the extra advantage of getting a refreshing drink at the same time. Lots of girls worry about showing their Fangs in public believing that to show your fangs is rude, but don't be shy they can be a girls greatest asset (ok second greatest asset) if a boy is being rude to you, don't just snarl at him, just bite him! You are a vampire why do you think you have sharp teeth if not for sinking them into a boy that is being rude to you.
Today's world is difficult for everyone, especially teenagers. They face the stresses of school, deciding whom to date, and the biggie of sex, just to name a few. Imagine all of those things ten times worse, and you might get an idea of what it's like being a living, breathing teenage vampire. At last, the world can read about the life of a girl with good teeth, her problems with strong sunlight that gave her spots, and the sunblock that made her hair go yucky and produced more spots. Yes, sunlight was dangerous, as she could be the first teenager in history to die from terminal acne! In her everyday life, older vampires expected her to walk about at night in the traditional female uniform, a see-through, 18th-century nightdress, without undies! Well, this female vampire knew why the cold winds blowing along the corridors were called, "male winds," so she wore her see-through nightdress over jeans and a very thick jumper. To be sure that people would still know she was a vampire, the jumper had a very large, pink bat on it. And as to guys, well, it was normal for a girl to dream about guys; she just wished the dreams could have involved chocolates and holding hands, not leaping out at someone, ripping off his shirt, and demanding to know what blood type he was (at least not on the first date).