The importance of the Happisburgh footprints is highlighted by the rarity of footprints surviving elsewhere. Only those at Laetoli in Tanzania at about 3.5 million years and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya at about 1.5 million years are older.This illustrates the fragility of the fossil record and how incredibly fortunate we are to have anything, let alone what we do have.There isn't a whole heck of a lot in England to begin with. The boxgrove tibia is around 500 Kya and the Swanscombe skull is around 300 Kya. We know that early Homo was in southern Europe around 1.2-1.3 Mya and now, in northern Europe by at least 800 Kya.
A lecturer in physical geography, and co-director of the Happisburgh project (http://www.ahobproject.org/), Dr Lewis added that the chance of encountering footprints such as this was extremely rare; they survived environmental change and the passage of time.
Timing was also crucial as "their location was revealed just at a moment when researchers were there to see it" during a geophysical survey. "Just two weeks later the tide would have eroded the footprints away."
"At first we weren't sure what we were seeing," explains Dr Nick Ashton of the British Museum "but as we removed any remaining beach sand and sponged off the seawater, it was clear that the hollows resembled prints, and that we needed to record the surface as quickly as possible."
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Oldest Footprints Outside of Africa
Fossil footprints have been found in England that are thought to be 800,000 years old. As Science Daily puts it: