Pre-historic hand-axe 700,000 years old

Contributed by Norwich Castle Museum

Pre-historic hand-axe dating back 700,000 years. © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service

The Happisburgh handaxe is prime evidence for one of the earliest occurrences of early humans in north west Europe.An object of world significance; this beautiful ovate flint handaxe was found on a Norfolk beach in 2000 by a local man walking his dog. Norfolk's east coast is being subjected to rapid erosion and the action of the sea had exposed a very ancient archaeological deposit that was only revealed at low tide.

The handaxe was discovered securely stratified within a thick peaty deposit which was subsequently dated to around 700,000 years old. This single discovery showed that humans had been present in Britain some 200,000 years earlier than had previously been known. Further scrutiny at the site and around the coast of East Anglia subsequently contributed additional finds of flint tools and animal bones within the geological deposits called the Forest Bed Series. The discovery has served to make Norfolk and Suffolk the focus of international attention and study as the earliest known location for humans in the whole of north-west Europe.

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  • 1. At 02:37 on 20 July 2010, siobhanjg wrote:

    Thank you BBC for this wonderful series. It has kept me exercising consistently over the past few weeks of sweltering weather here in US. I look forward to each new program and am listening again to old ones.

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  • 2. At 20:06 on 22 October 2010, shed97 wrote:

    Since then and now, and ice age has been and gone, a thought that puts climate change into some sort of human perspective.

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