(ORDO NEWS) — In the ancient riverbed, evidence of the life of Homo heidelbergensis was found. It seems that the ancestor of the Neanderthals prospered quite well in local conditions.
In a gravel pit in the Stour Valley near Fordwich, Kent, UK, archaeologists found flint artifacts that they identified as scrapers and piercing tools. The study of stone tools was carried out by an international team of scientists led by Alastair Key from the University of Cambridge.
The site first attracted attention in the 1920s, when workers found 330 stone axes in the bed of an ancient river. They were attributed to the Acheulean culture, now most are in the collection of the British Museum.
New finds dated between 560 and 620 thousand years ago (Middle Pleistocene).
Dating was performed using the method of infrared radio fluorescence (IR-RF). It allows you to determine the point in time when grains of sand from the layer of interest to scientists were last exposed to sunlight.
These data show that Fordwich is one of the earliest Paleolithic sites in northwest Europe, and also contained the only major collection of Acheulean axes.
The artifacts were located near the ancient riverbed, which means that it can be argued that they were created before the river moved to another area of the valley.
The owners of the stone tools were probably the Heidelberg people, Homo heidelbergensis . In principle, Homo erectus could have been the carriers of the Acheulean tradition , but it is believed that about half a million years ago in Europe it was mainly represented by the Heidelbergers.
Homo heidelbergensis evolved from the African Homo erectus during the first early hominin expansion from Africa starting about two million years ago.
According to paleoDNA, the Heidelberg man is the direct ancestor of the Neanderthals. Sometimes they are even called “early Neanderthals” to distinguish them from “late”, classical ones.
It is known that ancient people appeared in Britain already 840 or even 950 thousand years ago. This is how the footprints found in Norfolk are dated.
But these early visits may have been fleeting due to climatic changes: from time to time during that era it became sharply cold, glaciers advanced, and man, judging by the discontinuity of the finds, retreated to the south.
Scientists believe that ancient humans colonized Britain during the warming phase, between 560,000 and 620,000 years ago. At that time, Britain was not an island, but a peninsula in the northwest of the continent. And populations from the mainland were free to migrate to new hunting grounds.
German anthropologist Dr. Tomos Proffitt, who took part in the study of the finds, believes that hunter-gatherers who lived in Britain hundreds of thousands of years ago flourished, and not just survived – this is evidenced by the variety of stone tools discovered.
According to archaeologists, many of the tools found are exactly scrapers for butchering the carcasses of deer, horses and rhinos. According to modern ideas, scrapers in the Stone Age were also used for dressing animal skins. Then clothes or dwellings were made from these skins.
Separate tools clearly do not have a cutting (scraping) edge and are intended rather for piercing – that is, for the subsequent processing of already dressed skins. Researchers suggest that the ancient people who lived on the territory of modern Kent could be engaged in other activities.
Some of the newly discovered artifacts appear to be unusually small, which is rare in the Lower Paleolithic of Northern Europe.
But the prevalence of such artifacts can be determined only in the process of further excavations. It is already clear that this is one of the most ancient, interesting, and poorly studied Early Acheulean sites in northwestern Europe.
New excavations are now planned, during which archaeologists hope to find the bones of people who used both these tools and the axes discovered earlier.
Archaeologists from the University of Cambridge declined to tell the press the exact dig site, fearing it could become a target for thieves and amateur archaeologists.
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