How weather killed Britain's population seven times

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Britain has been colonised at least eight times over the past 700,000 years and on seven of those occasions the human population was wiped out by cold winters.

This is one of the main conclusions of a five-year investigation into the prehistoric sites of Britain which has shown that the last colonisation occurred less than 12,000 years ago - making Britain a younger country than Australia, which has been continuously inhabited for at least 50,000 years.

"Britain had to be repopulated over and over again. Completely new people had to come back, sometimes with a gap of 100,000 years between these occupations," said Professor Chris Stringer, the head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London.

"Early Britons had to cope with these changes of climate. Often they couldn't and they died out completely. Britain and the British people today are new arrivals. We're products of only the past 12,000 years," Professor Stringer said.