British scientists, exploring a beach on the country's east coast, discovered what they believe are the oldest human footprints outside of Africa. They are estimated to be close to one million years old and are believed to be the oldest evidence of humans in northern Europe.
Footprints of what appears to be a group of ancient humans were discovered on a beach in Norfolk, in eastern Britain. They may be about 500,000 years older than the earliest footprints previously found in the country.
The 3-D images and a model of one of the imprints were unveiled Friday at a news conference at the British Museum, in London.
The museum’s archeologist Nick Ashton described the moment last May when he realized the footprints were left by a prehistoric man.
“It was only when the overhead views were emailed through to me back in my office and I suddenly looked at it and opened up the file and I thought, 'This is absolutely amazing, you know, there is no doubt this really is human footprints,'” he said.
Ashton said the new discovery will alter the understanding of early human history in Europe.
Liverpool John Moores University researcher Isabelle de Groote analyzed the prints. “The spread of the footprint size gives us an indication that we have children, a number of children and then probably some adults there with at least one, probably one male,” she said.
It is not known how the early humans survived in the cold environment of ancient northern Europe.
Scientists say a million years ago, Britain was joined to continental Europe and they believe that the individuals who left the footprints were related to Homo sapiens’ ancestors called the Pioneer Man, known to have inhabited a warmer climate.
Scientists continue to explore the Norfolk coastline looking for human fossils.