First evidence of humans in Britain under microscope

Oct 13, 2006

Archaeologists at the University of Bradford are putting 24 pieces of ancient stone under the microscope to determine how they were used as tools by humans – 700,000 years ago.

This collection of artefacts was discovered in Pakefield, Suffolk, last year by an excavation team led by Palaeontologist Simon Parfitt from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Since then, they have been exhibited in the Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, and are currently on loan to Bradford for two weeks of specialist analysis.

This examination, being conducted by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) PhD Researcher Adrian Evans and Dr Randolph Donahue from the University’s Division of Archaeological Sciences, aims to prove whether or not these pieces of flint were used as tools by ancient humans.

The stone tools from Pakefield represent the earliest existing evidence of human activity in the UK and Northern Europe (north of the Alps), and predate previously discovered artefacts by 200,000 years.

Adrian explains: “These tools represent a significant discovery in the understanding of the human occupation of Britain and Northern Europe. It’s an exciting opportunity to have a chance to study them and to contribute to such an important aspect of prehistoric research.

“We will be examining the stones with our microscopes at 200 times magnification to see if we can find evidence to suggest they were used as tools for activities such as stripping meat and skins from the carcasses of animals, or sharpening spears for hunting.

“What we’re actually looking for is how the stones might have been modified by humans and by nature in the burial environment after they were discarded. One of the samples has a rounded bulbous end to it, and this was probably used as a hammer. Other pieces have very sharp edges which suggest they too have been modified for use.”

Adrian and Dr Donahue have the stones on loan for two weeks until they must be returned to the Natural History Museum. Until then, the examination work will be carried out in the University’s lithic microwear research laboratory. The findings of their research will be published in 2007.

Source: University of Bradford

Explore further: 110-million-year-old crustacean holds essential piece to evolutionary puzzle

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

African swine fever threatens Europe

Dec 17, 2014

African swine fever, or ASF, is a viral disease that kills almost every pig it infects and is likened to Ebola. It gained a foothold in Georgia in 2007, when contaminated pig meat landed from a ship from ...

Big-data analysis reveals gene sharing in mice

Dec 16, 2014

Rice University scientists have detected at least three instances of cross-species mating that likely influenced the evolutionary paths of "old world" mice, two in recent times and one in the distant past.

Habitual use of fire as told from cave near Haifa

Dec 15, 2014

Scientists have not been content with the exercise of dating when man first used fire. While the earliest evidence for hominin use of fire dates to more than a million years ago, scientists have been keen ...

How huge numbers of people can organise online for data analysis

Dec 15, 2014

Some achieve celebrity, and some have celebrity thrust upon them, to paraphrase Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. This may be how Alex Geutsitskiy and Katie Verkovod feel, a couple from Oregon who were captured on camera by photographer Paul Wolfe at exactly the moment Geutsitskiy proposed on a peak in the Columbia River Go ...

Recommended for you

Fish eye sheds light on color vision

Dec 23, 2014

A fish eye from a primitive time when Earth was but one single continent, has yielded evidence of color vision dating back at least 300 million years, researchers said Tuesday.

Study sheds new light on the diet of extinct animals

Dec 22, 2014

A study of tooth enamel in mammals living today in the equatorial forest of Gabon could ultimately shed light on the diet of long extinct animals, according to new research from the University of Bristol.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.