Giant hippo bones reveal Norfolk's ancient past as a tropical savannah

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The Independent Online

Norfolk was once a tropical savannah with seven-ton hippos, hyenas and other exotic wildlife, archaeologists believe.

Norfolk was once a tropical savannah with seven-ton hippos, hyenas and other exotic wildlife, archaeologists believe.

Fossilised remains of two giant hippos were unearthed close to Norwich in April and go on show today at the Natural History Museum in London.

The bones date back 500,000 to 780,000 years to the Middle Pleistocene age and are the first significant find of animal remains from the period.

Experts believe that the hippos would have weighed between six and seven tons, in comparison to the modern species, which weighs about four tons.

It is believed the two specimens discovered died of natural causes, although their bones show evidence of hyena bites.

A Natural History Museum spokeswoman said: "The hippos lived when Norfolk had a landscape populated by an unusual mixture of familiar plants and animals and more exotic species now found only in African savannah. It had grassland and trees, and mammals, including water voles and hyenas." Archaeologists are to continue digs at the site - the location of which is secret - and hope to uncover fossilised hyena bones.Work is being carried out by the museum, experts from Queen Mary, University of London and the Natural Environment Research Council.

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