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Britain's Eastern Coast Yields Oldest Human Footprints Outside Africa 120

Posted by timothy
from the before-the-invention-of-wellingtons dept.
schwit1 writes "They were a British family on a day out — almost a million years ago. Archaeologists announced Friday that they have discovered human footprints in England that are between 800,000 and 1 million years old — the most ancient found outside Africa, and the earliest evidence of human life in northern Europe. A team from the British Museum, London's Natural History Museum and Queen Mary college at the University of London uncovered imprints from up to five individuals in ancient estuary mud at Happisburgh on the country's eastern coast."
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Britain's Eastern Coast Yields Oldest Human Footprints Outside Africa

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  • by E-Sabbath (42104) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @12:28PM (#46203007)

    Walk upon England's mountains green?
    And was the holy Lamb of God
    On England's pleasant pastures seen?

    And did the Countenance Divine
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here
    Among these dark satanic mills?

    Bring me my bow of burning gold!
    Bring me my arrows of desire!
    Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
    Bring me my chariot of fire!

    I will not cease from mental fight,
    Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
    Till we have built Jerusalem
    In England's green and pleasant land.

    • Betteridge's law of hymns is in effect.

    • Oh dear, did somebody say "mattress" to Mr Lambert?!
    • s/builded/betad/

  • And did those feet
    in ancient time
    Walk upon Englands mountains green

    And please keep the Slashdot classic

  • by Alsn (911813) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @12:34PM (#46203035)
    As far as I know, the model states that humans migrated from Africa a couple of hundred thousand years ago. Footsteps in Britain from "humans" 1 million years ago would seem to contradict this? Or does this simple mean that these footprints are a Neanderthal precursor species or something similar that's not actually "proper" humans?

    Anyone with some more knowledge of this care to shine a light on this?
    • by JustOK (667959) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @12:40PM (#46203081) Journal
      Same people. Primitive GPS was really bad but people still blindly followed directions.
    • by Zocalo (252965) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @12:49PM (#46203131) Homepage
      Depends on the varient of the theory. One of those is that there were multiple diasporas of early humans out of Africa, but most of the early explorers died out in the ice ages or other calamities, while others may have survived longer to become the various off shoots of the human tree found in the fossil records. I'd say that idea doesn't really suffer from this find, if anything it strengthens it and establishes that humans must have started expanding out of their ancestral homelands much sooner than many may have thought and certainly doesn't prevent all of us current humans from from being decended from a much more recent Mitochondrial Eve that lived in Africa approx 100,000-200,000 years ago.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        multiple diasporas are strongly supported by fossil and tool evidence

        this is just the first example of footprints as far north as Britain

        There is no clear proof that these were (they have already washed away) anything more than depressions that looked like footprints

    • It would have been H. erectus, and since we view them,as members of genus Homo, it doesn't seem a huge stretch to call them humans.

      • It would have been H. erectus

        TFA says it was probably 'Homo Antecessor'. Wether a particular species of ape is called human or not seems to depend on the hips and skull, AFAIK all apes that walked upright are commonly referred to as humans (or proto-humans) by archaeologists. The rest of us call them "ape men".

    • by nietsch (112711)

      Yes, I have read in the article that it presumably was 'Homo antecessor'. Species determination fromsets of footprints is very hard. We are 'homo sapiens' so calling it human is a bit of a stretch.

    • by fermion (181285)
      My view is it like the human population is continuously attempting to expand. The estimates that are in place now reflect when the expansions led to widespread colonization. For instance we may say that Australia had not human inhabintants prior to 50K years ago, but that does not mean it is impossible that we might find a small family group prior to that. After all, it was 200 years between the rediscovery of the continent and the first colony.

      In any case I don't know where your data comes from. Ther

    • The researchers said the humans who left the footprints may have been related to Homo antecessor, or "pioneer man," whose fossilized remains have been found in Spain. That species died out about 800,000 years ago.

      Direct quote. Fuck me, I won't have to try very hard to boycott.

    • Depends on how you define "human." The people who left these footprints would probably be recognizable to us as, well, people, i.e. genus Homo, but would also recognizably very different from any people living today, i.e. Homo sapiens sapiens. The vast bulk of evidence points to successive waves of hominins arising in Africa and migrating outward, with the last such group being us. And since Homo is about two and a half million years old as best we can tell, there's was plenty of time for members of the

    • by Arker (91948)
      Homo *sapiens* migrated out of africa roughly 100k years ago.

      These are not homo sapiens, they were members of an earlier and now extinct human race which had already spread from Africa to cover Europe and Asia at an earlier time.
    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:02PM (#46205407) Journal
      Yes, Homo Sapiens (proper humans) first appeared about 200kya. However there were other species of "humans" well before that, they too originated from Africa and walked upright. The ice ages regularly pushed the spread of all primates back toward the equator.

      Also if you (gasp) RTFA it tells you that the prints were probably left by Homo Antecessor, (pioneer man), sadly the prints were washed away 2 weeks after they were discovered so we can never know for sure.
    • If they were in Norfolk its probably just Homoamphibius they dredge these guys up every now and again to appear on Dr Who
    • Evidence of bipedialism in foot prints and foot & hip bones nearly three million years ago. Modest tool use at that time. Human size brains in Neandetahl race 300K years ago. Modern complex culture- clothing, art, fine tools- only 80K years ago.
  • by Capt.Gingi (89525) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @12:37PM (#46203059) Homepage

    I'm sorry, but how can anyone really believe that these pre-date the creation of the planet? Was anyone THERE at THAT TIME to OBSERVE exactly when and by whom the footprints were made? Seems pretty silly to me to believe in this non-obervational "science"! I've got a good book that I can recommend that answers all these questions and more....

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tylernt (581794)

      I'm sorry, but how can anyone really believe that these pre-date the creation of the planet? Was anyone THERE at THAT TIME to OBSERVE exactly when and by whom the footprints were made? Seems pretty silly to me to believe in this non-obervational "science"!

      You appear to be proceeding on the assumption that direct observation is the only reliable method of determining truth. By this standard, I must infer that you do not believe in God, since you have certainly never directly observed Him. Yes?

    • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @01:53PM (#46203531) Homepage

      I've got a good book that I can recommend that answers all these questions and more....

      Questions like:

      1. Can I sell my daughter into slavery? Yes! [biblehub.com]
      2. Should I avoid all contact with women during her period? Yes! [biblegateway.com]
      3. Can I buy slaves from neighbouring nations? Yes! [biblehub.com]
      4. Should I kill someone who works on a Sunday? Yes! [biblehub.com]
      5. Can I eat shellfish? No! [biblehub.com]
      6. I have a lazy eye. Can I go to church? No! [biblehub.com]
      7. Can I get a haircut? No! [biblehub.com]

      Yup, good book that.

      • by claytongulick (725397) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:17PM (#46205107) Homepage

        Ok, I try to avoid getting involved in religious conversations like this, but you are coming across as a typical ignorant elitist here, sneering down at things you clearly don't understand. We all get that you aren't religious, but that doesn't give you the right to present skewed information taken out of context. So, I'm going to completely waste my time here and present some *actual* information on each one of your points in the vain hope that in the future you will temper your snark.

        Questions like:

        1. Can I sell my daughter into slavery? Yes! [biblehub.com]

        What you aren't saying, is that at the time selling children into slavery was a common practice throughout much of the "civilized" world. This 'law' was put in to place to *protect women*. The reason why is that normally when a child was sold into servitude, they would be freed after a period of time. Since (by far) the reason that women were taken as 'servants' or ('hand-maidens' depending on the interpretation) was as second wives or concubines, it was grossly unfair to the woman to then release her from service after she had been used as a sex object for years. No one would want to marry her, and she was essentially screwed. To protect against that, this law was put into place saying essentially, that if you're going to take this woman on, you have to care for her forever, you can't just have sex with her for a few years while she's pretty and then kick her out once she gets older.

        2. Should I avoid all contact with women during her period? Yes! [biblegateway.com]

        Again, you're totally cherry picking here. Leviticus rules of cleanliness were generally *good* things. At the time, they simply didn't understand biology, and sanitary practices were spotty at best. This was the origin of laying down some rules for sanitary practices, which is a good thing, even if they seem strange to us now. And by the way, Leviticus' admonishments were by no means limited only to women:

        Leviticus 1-5:
        "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean. And this shall be his uncleanness in regard to his discharge; whether his body runs with his discharge, or his body is stopped up by his discharge, it is his uncleanness. Every bed is unclean on which he who has the discharge lies, and everything on which he sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches his bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening."

        This was relating to abnormal discharge, no one really understood STD's, they were just doing their best at the time. But great job completely misrepresenting Leviticus as anti-female in order to push some sort of agenda.

        3. Can I buy slaves from neighbouring nations? Yes! [biblehub.com]

        Again, you're totally misrepresenting the law here. A the time, this was incredibly progressive. Slavery was rampant and commonly accepted, to limit the bounds of slavery and who could be enslaved was a great step in the right direction. Considering that even the U.S. still hadn't worked out slavery issues as of only 140 years ago, applying 21st century morals to a progressive law created to put bounds and limits on slavery thousands of years ago... well, that's just childish.

        4. Should I kill someone who works on a Sunday? Yes! [biblehub.com]

        I don't even understand your point here. Are you saying this is still a problem? I mean, I agree - we need to stop the rampant slaughter of all the people who work on Sundays in America. Oh wait... you mean, this doesn't happen? At all? So, clearly it was a law intended for another time - a time that penalties were pretty damn harsh for just about any infraction. There's some question about how tightly this was int

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Barsteward (969998)
          "Again, you're totally cherry picking here."

          thats the typical way the religious interpret the bible so whats wrong with that, the religious only cherry pick the good secular bits and hide the bad religious stuff so don't point that accusation at people criticizing the bible
        • by Swampash (1131503)

          Religious or not, the Bible in an incredible historical document that should be treated with respect and educated thoughtfulness, not snarky cherry picking and misrepresentation.

          Just like Mein Kampf!

        • by styrotech (136124)

          So you're saying that readers of this writing should take account of the time and the cultural context of the writer(s) and not take it literally.

          As a somewhat naive (of these kinds of arguments) observer, it seems to me that you are actually agreeing with those you are apparently disagreeing with.

          • Well, it depends on what assumptions you are making about me.

            I never said I agreed with the things that I mentioned, or suggested that Leviticus contains a list of rules to live by, or what religion, if any, I ascribe to.

            What I disagree with is the casual disrespect and misrepresentation that the OP treated the Bible with.

            Regardless of religious preference, such an important historical document should be treated with more respect. Also, regardless of religious preference, it is a fool who goes through life

        • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @06:29PM (#46205589) Homepage

          What you aren't saying, is that at the time...
          At the time, they simply didn't understand... ...they were just doing their best at the time...
          So, clearly it was a law intended for another time...
          A the time, this was incredibly progressive...

          Thanks for re-making my actual point for me, which is not that the bible was written by idiots, but that it's still used, by many idiots, as a justification for their own prejudices and wilful ignorance of fact - which appeared to be the OP's position (with the caveat that the best satire is indistinguishable from that which it satirises).

          But great job completely misrepresenting Leviticus as anti-female

          I wasn't trying to represent it as anti-female. I'm trying to represent it as being millennia out of date.

          Religious or not, the Bible in an incredible historical document

          Agreed, both as you meant it and other meanings of the word "incredible." Though perhaps only "historical" in the sense of "written thousands of years ago," not "everything within actually happened

          that should be treated with respect and educated thoughtfulness

          Perhaps in some contexts. But not as a guide for living your life in the 21st century, which, again, is the position the OP took which I took issue with.

          • No, I disagree. It was clear that the purpose of your comment was to score points by sneering at the Bible. It was clear that the OP's post was a joke, and poking fun at creationists. The OP was taking a sarcastic tone to illustrate some of the poorly reasoned arguments that are made by new-earth creationists.

            You post, however was not that. You post cherry picked individual lines from the Bible in order to specifically misrepresent them, take them out of context in a sort of elitist, intellectually superior

            • No, I disagree. It was clear that the purpose of your comment...

              Oh, right, sorry, I must have been mistaken about what was going on in my own head at the time.

              • No, just being revisionist and - once again - misleading.

                1. Can I sell my daughter into slavery? Yes! [biblehub.com]
                2. Should I avoid all contact with women during her period? Yes! [biblegateway.com]
                3. Can I buy slaves from neighbouring nations? Yes! [biblehub.com]
                4. Should I kill someone who works on a Sunday? Yes! [biblehub.com]
                5. Can I eat shellfish? No! [biblehub.com]
                6. I have a lazy eye. Can I go to church? No! [biblehub.com]
                7. Can I get a haircut? No! [biblehub.com]

                Yup, good book that.

                Your phrasing, use of exclamation points, and flippant "Yup, good book that" were all clear indicators of your tone.

                But not as a guide for living your life in the 21st century, which, again, is the position the OP took which I took issue with.

                Saying something does not make it so. The OP did not take the position you stated. Your post was clearly intended to be derogatory and sarcastic.

                Congratulations, the moderators of slashdot agreed with you. You sunk to the level of hipster group think and won karma points. Well done.

                You don't need to justify yourself, you "won". I should

            • by Xest (935314)

              Why is the bible and important book exactly? Just because it's old? It's certainly not an accurate portrayal of events that occured or any such thing. Is there a reason it deserves more respect than say, The Hobbit? or the Harry Potter books?

              Just intrigued to know what you think is special about it. If it's merely age then I can think of a thousand more old books and documents that are far more interesting, far more fascinating, and from which we can learn much from.

              • Why is the bible and important book exactly? Just because it's old?

                Importance is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, but the bible is:
                1. The best selling book of all time
                2. Arguably the most influential book in (and on) human history (for good or ill)
                a. I mean, seriously. People have died for this book. People who died because they were so committed to what it said, and people who have killed because of it. Numerous social movements have happened because of this book. Essentially ALL of Western thought for the past several centuries has been significantly impacted

                • by Xest (935314)

                  I think all those measures are rather arbitrary. One book is no more important than any other.

                  Newton's Principia may have sold far less copies than the bible, it may not be as old, but it's sure as hell been the basis for the largest improvements to technology and quality of life for humanity in the years since. The technological advances stemming from the knowledge within have saved and improved far more lives.

                  Similarly there are writings that are much older than the Bible without which the Bible would lik

                  • I think all those measures are rather arbitrary. One book is no more important than any other.

                    The criteria you use to call my standards arbitrary is just as arbitrary - so there.

                    But seriously, claiming that no book is more important than another makes it so this isn't really a discussion worth having. You are not really talking about the bible at all then... just about a general relativistic perspective by which all value statements are subjective, and therefore you don't assign worth to them. Sure, everything is subjective when you get down to it, but we can still get some useful things done wit

                    • by Xest (935314)

                      Not really, the point I was actually making is simply that you were bitching at someone for daring to not treat the bible as an important book. I was only really arguing for the sake of that - I think it's arrogant to demand someone treat something with respect just because you think it's deserved, even if they do not.

                      Did it really not cross your mind to consider that perhaps whilst it may be important to you, there are many others of us who really could not give the slightest shit about it nor see any meri

                    • Hey, don't get all riled up here - I'm not really saying that anybody ought to like the bible, or consider its contents valuable, or even respect it. Really, I'm just saying that, according to most reasonably objective criteria that we might use to quantify the "importance" of a work, the bible is certainly going to be among the top contenders.

                      It seems to me that you want to call the bible unimportant because you dislike it, see inaccuracies within the text, or believe that it has had a net negative infl
                    • by Xest (935314)

                      "Hey, don't get all riled up here - I'm not really saying that anybody ought to like the bible, or consider its contents valuable, or even respect it"

                      Right, but the person I was responding to originally was:

                      "By doing that, you treated an important book with total disregard and disrespect."

                      Why do you think I responded in an "Oh no, god forbid anyone defy the important book!" manner?

                      "It seems to me that you want to call the bible unimportant because you dislike it"

                      I want to call it unimportant because I do no

                    • Ok - I agree with you mostly on your rebuttals to the OP - he(or she) was getting fairly high-and-mighty about the bible, and there is no obligation to treat any work with more "respect" than another, as far as I'm concerned. Outside of a religious context, I still think the bible is important (as in playing a significant role in the course of humanity and the lives of many humans throughout history), but someone telling you not to "disrespect" it is merely projecting religious values on others, and I certa
        • by Anonymous Coward

          This is just your interpretation of how we should interpret certain parts of the Bible, and that there are many countless believers that would find your interpretation silly, even heretical. Once, I had a conversation with an Orthodox Jewish person about whether the Jewish prohibitions against certain foods was due to health concerns of the day. His response was, "No, these are the commandments. We don't follow them because of health issues. We follow them because God said to." That's not even a paraphrasin

    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

      Ah, but the scientists actually found that the group likely consisted of one adult male and several children and most of the footprints were pointing in the same direction...

      So clearly this man must have been engaging in all sorts of unthinkable sinful behavior with his young victims right before they all heard the flood approaching and began to run away from it in a vain attempt to escape God's wrath.

    • Was anyone THERE at THAT TIME to OBSERVE exactly when and by whom the footprints were made?

      Yes, someone WAS there at the time as a matter of fact.
      One of the footprint makers THEMSELVES, informed me in a vision, Just exactly how the footprints were made, and who made them.

      Their names were Bob, Harry, and Alley Oop. The infamous Oop brothers. They took a wrong turn leaving 'The Cave'(a popular local pub at the time), and ended up on the beach by mistake.
      Now their blunder was recorded for history.

      And further more, I'll be writing a book detailing all of my visions(sent by Harry Oop), and the book

      • by cusco (717999)

        If you had watched the Nye/Ham debate the other day (and you really should, it's hilarious in places) you would have realized the OP was simply channeling Ham's "arguments" from the debate. Not quite, but almost, "woosh".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can the footprints tell us if they had crooked teeth?

  • They said well it's possible they were a lot more advanced than we thought. You think? Unless there was a land bridge or glacier linking France and England, that means they were ship builders.

    • by Geeky (90998) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @01:17PM (#46203307)

      There was a land bridge at the time - in fact until quite recently [wikipedia.org].

    • http://arstechnica.com/science... [slashdot.org]">Ars has an interesting take on this question, which does not require full ships.

      And because I'm mobile and went through enough trouble on your behalf already, you may on your own find more about suggestions that people have essentially rafted about the world longer than we have had actual ships.

      In addition to land bridges and other possibilities, it is very easy to imagine without requiring ship building, unless you spend no time reading or thinking about how ancient pe

    • The English channel is said to have been cut by a single massive flood from an natural ice dam that burst toward the end of one of the "recent" ice ages. Humans were most likely living on the land bridge at the time. The loose rubble it left behind is why they had so much trouble finding a suitable path for the channel tunnel.
  • by denisbergeron (197036) <<DenisBergeron> <at> <yahoo.com>> on Sunday February 09, 2014 @01:21PM (#46203329)

    It's obviously footprint of Arthur Philip Dent when he was back in the past abord the phone's cleaner spaceship.

  • This has so many problems. Number one. the photograph is undated, so who knows the reference point for the footprint dating? Number two. the lens cap is obviously intelligently designed. This foot print is 4000 years old. Max.

    • Jesus didn't leave any footprints anywhere, because his feet never touched the ground. He could walk on water, so I guess he just sort of floated around everywhere.

      He must have looked like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk.

  • On a summer's beach outing with the family?

  • The footprints themselves, which survived for almost 1 million years, won't be there. Two weeks after they were uncovered, North Sea tides had washed them away.

  • by Toad-san (64810) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @04:54PM (#46204993)

    Look as closely at the "footprints" as you can in these images:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/n... [independent.co.uk]

    And then consider this statement:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/n... [independent.co.uk]
    "Of the 50 or so examples recorded, only around a dozen were reasonably complete - and only two showed the toes in detail. Tragically, although a full photogrammetric and photographic record has been made, all but one of the prints were rapidly destroyed by incoming tides before they could be physically lifted."

    Sooooo .. they existed (presumably buried by the seaside) for almost a million years .. appear, and then are DESTROYED by the next incoming tide?

    Riiiii-ight.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      PhD archaeologist here.

      It's incredibly common for formerly stable artifacts removed from a state of archaeo-geological stasis to rapidly degrade once exposed to a completely new set of formation factors. These can include air, light, water, or mechanical action.

      I myself have seen Roman Fresco fragments fade from a state of brilliant color to near colorlessness in less than 20 seconds when exposed to air by excavation. Similarly, these footprints were protected from air, light, and most importantly hydrolog

    • by Xest (935314)

      Yes, they'd been covered by sand for many thousands of years and when that was eventually washed away to the point the rock was exposed it didn't take long for the rock to be weathered away.

      They weren't in open air or fully exposed to the sea for the last 800,000 years if that's what you're thinking. If they had been then given the UK's population density don't you think someone might have stumbled across them before now?

  • by Toad-san (64810) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @05:18PM (#46205117)

    I haven't walked the seashore. I haven't examined the sediments (and never will now, apparently). I'm certainly not the bearer of an archeology sheepskin from some exalted university.

    But ...

    http://www.independent.co.uk/n... [independent.co.uk]

    http://www.independent.co.uk/i... [independent.co.uk]

    Does anyone see more than two prints in any sort of logical and likely walking pattern? You know, one in front of the other, left foot, right foot? No, I didn't think so.

    "Of the 50 or so examples recorded, only around a dozen were reasonably complete - and only two showed the toes in detail. Tragically, although a full photogrammetric and photographic record has been made, all but one of the prints were rapidly destroyed by incoming tides before they could be physically lifted."

    That's odd: EVERY bare foot print I've ever seen clearly showed the toes (even Bigfoot's!). And how curious, that "footprints" cast in rock-hard sediment that has survived for a million years beside a seaside that's repeatedly changed depth over the milleniums .. suddenly are totally and almost completely destroyed by the very next incoming tide? How .. unfortunate.

    The Happisburgh geology (readily available with the most trivial search) also does not support this. The beach surfaces and their underlying sedimentary structure are NOT a million years old.

    https://www.bgs.ac.uk/landslid... [bgs.ac.uk]
    http://books.google.com/books?... [google.com]

    No, I'm sorry, I'm not buying this. Someone was seeing what they wanted to see.

  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Sunday February 09, 2014 @10:46PM (#46207153)
    BBC article on human presence [bbc.co.uk] in Britain one million years ago. With a nice map showing that Britain was not an island at that time.
  • This site used to be great. Even in its latter days, it's been good. That is poised to change. Before long, it will be mediocre, and ordinary.

    I didn't see a problem when Dice Holdings initially bought Slashdot. I figured there would be efforts to drive nerd traffic towards their job listings and such. That was fine. We all need jobs.

    Things have changed now. Beyond the shifts in story choices, the slashvertisements, and so on, something fundamental has changed: Slashdot's owners do not appreciate it.

    Their re

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