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Early Pleistocene human occupation at the edge of the boreal zone in northwest Europe

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

  • Simon Parfitt
  • Nick Ashton
  • Simon Lewis
  • Richard Abel
  • Russell Coope
  • Mike Field
  • Rowena Gale
  • Peter Hoare
  • Nigel R. Larkin
  • Mark D. Lewis
  • Vassil Karloukovski
  • Barbara Maher
  • Sylvia M. Peglar
  • Richard C. Preece
  • John E. Whittaker
  • Chris B. Stringer
Journal publication date8/07/2010
JournalNature
Journal number7303
Volume466
Number of pages5
Pages229-233
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The dispersal of early humans from Africa by 1.75 Myr ago led to a marked expansion of their range, from the island of Flores in the
east to the Iberian peninsula in the west1–5. This range encompassed tropical forest, savannah and Mediterranean habitats, but
has hitherto not been demonstrated beyond 456 N. Until recently, early colonization in Europe was thought to be confined to the area
south of the Pyrenees and Alps. However, evidence from Pakefield (Suffolk,UK) at 0.7 Myr indicated that humans occupied northern
European latitudes when a Mediterranean-type climate prevailed6.
This provided the basis for an ‘ebb and flow’ model, where human populations were thought to survive in southern refugia during
cold stages, only expanding northwards during fully temperate climates 5. Here we present new evidence from Happisburgh (Norfolk,
UK) demonstrating that Early Pleistocene hominins were present in northern Europe ~0.78Myr ago when they were able to survive at
the southern edge of the boreal zone. This has significant implications for our understanding of early human behaviour, adaptation
and survival, as well as the tempo and mode of colonization after their first dispersal out of Africa.