Happisburgh footprints

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Coordinates: 52°49′31″N 1°32′06″E / 52.825355°N 1.534928°E / 52.825355; 1.534928 The Happisburgh footprints are a set of early Pleistocene fossilized hominin footprints discovered on the beach at Happisburgh in Norfolk, England in May 2013. The sediments in which the footprints were made has been dated to over 800,000 years before present, and are the oldest known human footprints outside of Africa.[1][2][3] Prior to the discovery at Happisburgh, the oldest known footprints in Britain were at Uskmouth in South Wales, from the Mesolithic, and carbon-dated to 4,600 BC.[4]


The footprints were discovered in May 2013 by Nicholas Ashton, curator at the British Museum, and Martin Bates from Trinity St David’s University. The footprints were found in sediment, partially covered by beach sand, on the foreshore at Happisburgh. The sediment underlies the cliff on the beach, and was exposed by erosion of the cliffs.[3] The footprints were recorded using photogrammetry, and within two weeks of their discovery they had eroded away.[5]

Plan of the Happisburgh site, showing exposed and recorded foreshore sediments, and location of the footprint surface.


The footprints of about five individuals have been identified, including both adults and children. The footprints measured between 140 millimetres (5.5 in) and 260 millimetres (10 in), which are thought to equate to heights of between about 0.9 metres (2 ft 11 in) and 1.7 metres (5 ft 7 in). It is thought that the species that made the footprints was Homo antecessor.[5]

Analysis shows that the group of about five individuals were walking together in a southerly direction along mudflats on the edge of an early version of the River Thames, which flowed into the sea further north than it does today.[5][6]

Photographs of Area A at Happisburgh, showing: (a) View of footprint surface looking north; and (b) View of footprint surface looking south, also showing underlying horizontally bedded laminated silts.

See also


  1. Ghosh, Pallab. "Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk". BBC News. Retrieved 7 February 2014. 
  2. Ashton N, Lewis SG, De Groote I, Duffy SM, Bates M, et al. (2014) Hominin Footprints from Early Pleistocene Deposits at Happisburgh, UK. PLoS ONE 9(2): e88329. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088329
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ashton, Nicholas (7 February 2014). "The earliest human footprints outside Africa". British Museum. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  4. "Uskmouth". Severn Estuary Levels Research Committee. Retrieved 2014-02-08. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "New discovery at Happisburgh: The earliest human footprints outside Africa". British Museum. Retrieved 2014-02-07. 
  6. Connor, Steve (7 February 2014). "Norfolk footprints: Just who were Homo antecessor and how did they arrive in Britain?". The Independent. 

External links

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