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Earliest human footprints outside Africa discovered in NORFOLK: 800,000-years-old

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  • Earliest human footprints outside Africa discovered in NORFOLK: 800,000-years-old

    Earliest human footprints outside Africa discovered in NORFOLK: 800,000-year-old imprints 're-write our understanding of history

    Homo antecessor

    Scientists from the British Museum believe the 800,000-year-old footprints may be related to our very early ancestor known as Homo antecessor.

    Homo antecessor is one of the earliest known varieties of human discovered in Europe dating back as far as 1.2 million years ago.

    Believed to have weighed around 14 stone, Homo antecessor was said to have been between 5.5 and 6ft tall. Their brain sizes were roughly between 1,000 and 1,150 cm³, which is smaller than the average 1,350 cm³ brains of modern humans.

    The species is believed to have been right-handed, making it different from other apes, and may have used a symbolic language, according to archaeologists who found remains in Burgos, Spain in 1994.

    The importance of the Happisburgh footprints is highlighted by the rarity of footprints surviving elsewhere. Only those at Laetoli in Tanzania at about 3.5 million years and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya at about 1.5 million years are more ancient.

    How Homo antecessor is related to other Homo species in Europe has been fiercely debated.

    Many anthropologists believe there was an evolutionary link between Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergensis. Archaeologist Richard Klein claims Homo antecessor was a separate species completely, that evolved from Homo ergaster.

    Others claim Homo antecessor is actually the same species as Homo heidelbergensis, who lived in Europe between 600,000 and 250,000 years ago in the Pleistocene era.

    In 2010 stone tools were found at the same site in Happisburgh, Norfolk, believed to have been used by Homo antecessor.

    Very little more is known about the physiology of Homo antecessor, due to a lack of fossilised evidence, yet it is hoped the discovery of the Norfolk footprints will shed more light on the species.