Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Neanderthals walked into frozen Britain 40,000 years earlier than first thought, evidence shows

Date:
June 1, 2010
Source:
University of Southampton
Summary:
Archaeologists have found evidence that Neanderthals were living in Britain at the start of the last ice age, 40,000 years earlier than previously thought.

New evidence suggests that Neanderthals were living in Britain at the start of the last ice age, 40,000 years earlier than previously thought. Results from the testing of two ancient flint hand tools suggest that as soon as sea levels dropped, a 'land bridge' appeared across the English Channel, enabling the Neanderthals to make the journey by foot to Kent.
Credit: iStockphoto/Frank Ramspott

A University of Southampton archaeologist and Oxford Archaeology have found evidence that Neanderthals were living in Britain at the start of the last ice age, 40,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Commissioned by Oxford Archaeology, the University of Southampton's Dr Francis Wenban-Smith discovered two ancient flint hand tools at the M25 / A2 road junction at Dartford in Kent, during an excavation funded by the Highways Agency. The flints are waste flakes from the manufacture of unknown tools, which would almost certainly have mostly been used for cutting up dead animals. Tests on sediment burying the flints show they date from around 100,000 years ago, proving Neanderthals were living in Britain at this time. The country was previously assumed to have been uninhabited during this period.

"I couldn't believe my eyes when I received the test results. We know that Neanderthals inhabited Northern France at this time, but this new evidence suggests that as soon as sea levels dropped, and a 'land bridge' appeared across the English Channel, they made the journey by foot to Kent," says Francis.

Early pre-Neanderthals inhabited Britain before the last ice age, but were forced south by a previous glaciation about 200,000 year ago. When the climate warmed up again between 130,000 and 110,000 years ago, they couldn't get back because, similar to today, the Channel sea-level was raised, blocking their path. This discovery shows they returned to our shores much earlier than 60,000 years ago, as previous evidence suggested.

"The fieldwork uncovered a significant amount of activity at the Dartford site in the Bronze Age and Roman periods, but it is deeper trenches excavated through much older sediments which have yielded the most interesting results -- shedding light on a long period when there was assumed to have been an absence of early man from Britain," comments Oxford Archaeology Project Manager David Score.

One theory is that Neanderthals may have been attracted back to Kent by the flint-rich chalk downs visible from France. These supported herds of mammoth, rhino, horse and deer -- an important source of food in sub-arctic conditions.

"These are people who had no real shelter -- no houses, not even caves, so we can only speculate that by the time they returned, they had developed physiologically to cope with the cold, as well as developing behavioural strategies such as planning winter stores and making good use of fire," says Dr Francis Wenban-Smith.

The last glacial period (or ice age) occurred between around 110,000 to 10,000 years ago, but this was interspersed with fluctuations when the climate temporarily warmed. It is unclear whether Neanderthal colonisation across North Western Europe and Britain was related to these minor fluctuations.. Dr Wenban-Smith believes more evidence is needed to date their occupations more accurately, to show how many were living in Kent at this time, how far they roamed into Britain and how long they stayed for. The Channel is also a critical area for further research, with the buried landscape between Boulogne and Newhaven -- provisionally christened "Boulognia" -- possibly containing the crucial evidence.

The excavation was carried out prior to construction work on the scheme by the Costain Group PLC. The archaeological investigations were designed by Jacobs Engineering U.K. Ltd, in consultation with Kent County Council. Other results from the project include the discovery of a woolly rhino tooth in the floodplain gravels of the River Darent, dated at around 40,000 years old.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southampton. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Southampton. "Neanderthals walked into frozen Britain 40,000 years earlier than first thought, evidence shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100601124124.htm>.
University of Southampton. (2010, June 1). Neanderthals walked into frozen Britain 40,000 years earlier than first thought, evidence shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100601124124.htm
University of Southampton. "Neanderthals walked into frozen Britain 40,000 years earlier than first thought, evidence shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100601124124.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) U-576, a long-lost German U-boat the U.S. sank in 1942, has been found just 30 miles off North Carolina's coast and near the wreckage of another ship. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins