Ancient stone tools found in Norfolk to feature in exhibition

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Media captionThe discovery of the hand-axe sparked a major excavation of the Happisburgh site which features in the National History Museum exhibition

The earliest evidence of human settlement in Britain, found near a Norfolk caravan park, will form a central part of a new exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

Displays will feature stone tools, found in Happisburgh, which suggest humans arrived in the UK 900,000 years ago.

The individuals were a primitive predecessor of Homo Antecessor.

The exhibition in London runs from 13 February to 28 September.

Entitled "Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story", the show traces the changing population and landscape of the UK, drawing on more than 10 years of research by a large network of scientists, led by experts at the Natural History Museum.

'Ancient past'

Prof Chris Stringer, a human origins researcher, said: "Britain has one of the richest yet most underappreciated records of early human history in the world.

"It has taken more than 10 years for our 50-strong team of archaeologists, palaeontologists and geologists to unlock the secrets of our ancient past.

"This is the first time the key specimens from our research are together in one place. I hope people will be able to really get a feel for how different and changeable Britain was and see some of the incredible material and relics that have been found right beneath their feet."

Nick Ashton, curator of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic collections at the British Museum, said at the time the ancient tools were made in Happisburgh, Britain was linked to mainland Europe by a land corridor.

"The area would have been totally different with Happisburgh on the River Thames, surrounded by a coniferous forest."

Work started on excavating the site after a hand axe was found on the beach in 2000 by Mike Chambers while walking his dog.

He said: "I did not realise when I found it how important it was. My wife had to convince me to take it to the museum."

The hand axe, with dimensions of just 12mm (0.47in) in height, 7mm (0.28in) in width and 4mm (0.16in) in depth, was used as a butchery tool to carve flesh from bones.

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