Saturday, February 8, 2014

Family of footprints

Until now, the earliest human footprints in Britain dated to about 7,500 years ago. They have just been eclipsed dramatically by the Happisburgh prints, named after the village in Northfolk, U.K., in which they were found. Nearly 1,000,000 years ago, a group of at least one or two large adult males, at least two or three adult females or teenagers, and at least three or four children – possibly a family – walked upstream across tidal mudflats likely in search of food. About 50 of their preserved footprints were exposed by coastal erosion; discovered by a joint team from the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, and Queen Mary University of London; and promptly destroyed by incoming tides. Luckily, the prints were recorded photogrametrically to produce 3D digitized images of them, especially the 12 that were reasonably complete and the 2 that showed the toes in detail. Says archaeologist Nicholas Ashton of the British Museum, "These footprints are immensely rare - and are the first examples of such great age to have been found outside Africa. They are of huge international significance because they give us a very tangible link to the first humans to inhabit northern Europe, including Britain."

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