Science and Tech


800,000-Year-Old Footprints Discovered In U.K.

Scientists discovered the oldest-known footprints outside of Africa on a UK beach.
Posted at 11:21 AM, Feb 07, 2014

Last May, the waves on a Norfolk beach in Happisburgh, England revealed something pretty cool — and ancient. Scientists discovered the footprints of the earliest-known humans in Europe from 800,000 years ago. Take a look. 

"A storm has exposed mysterious traces on the beach."

"Really what we have to do is uncover them and then take very detailed photographs from different angles so we can build a 3D reconstruction." (ViaNatural History Museum, London)

Within two weeks of the discovery, the sea had eroded the footprints. But that's where 3D models came in handy. Dr. Isobelle De Grote examined them. 

DE GROTE: "...You can clearly see how the imprint was left in the surface of the sand. ... So you have the heel impression, the arch of the foot here and the ball of the foot that you can see very nicely." (Via The Telegraph)

​According to the Daily Mail, a total of 50 prints were discovered on the beach, but only about 12 were complete, while just two showed toe-indentations.

The scientists were able to determine a lot from those prints, though, like the relative age of the group, which ranged from child to adult, and the direction the group appeared to be headed, which was south. The ancient travelers appear to be a family group rather than a hunting group. (Via The British Museum)

It's possible the group was heading down to a strip of land that once connected Britain to Europe. The site of Happisburgh has revealed other fossils and stone tools linking Britain to ancient man, though none of that evidence is as compelling as the footprints themselves. (Via Google)

The oldest-known footprints of our ancestors were found in Tanzania, and are thought to be 3.5 million years old.