Stone Age man is now 200,000 years older

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The Independent Online

A collection of stone tools more than 700,000 years old has revealed that ancient humans lived in Britain thousands of years earlier than previously believed.

The tools, found near Pakefield in Suffolk, appear to have been made by early man hammering sharp flakes off flint pebbles carried by a river running across what is now East Anglia.

The "pebble-bash people" lived about 200,000 years earlier than Boxgrove man, until now the earliest known humans to have made a home in this part of northern Europe. Britain's climate at the time was like that of today's Mediterranean.

Animals such as mammoths, lions and sabre-toothed cats lived alongside the people who made the stone tools, said Anthony Stuart of University College London. "We were not an island," he said. "At the time we were connected to the continent. It was a lively place to live in those days."

Professor Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said about 30 stone tools have been found at the base of an eroded face of a seaside cliff at Pakefield, south of Lowestoft.

"We are confident they are indeed stone tools. They are very fresh and show all the hallmarks of human workmanship. They possess the characteristics of human intentionality," Professor Stringer said. Several dating methods have placed the age of the tools at around 700,000 years before the present, during a short interglacial period.

Details of the stone tools, published in the journal Nature, suggest they may have been made by early members of the species Homo heidelbergensis, the same species as the early human fossils found at Boxgrove in Sussex.