Stepping into Britain: A Million Years of Human History
with Dr Nick Ashton (British Museum)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 25th October, 2014.


New research on the human occupation of Britain over the last million years from the evidence of footprints at Happisburgh to the last Neanderthals, showing how advances in technology helped survival during dramatic changes in landscapes and climate.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                Conquering the north: the early colonisation of Britain. Britain contains the earliest evidence for humans in northern Europe at nearly a million years ago. The talk will explain the new evidence from coastal sites such as Pakefield and Happisburgh including sub-marine investigations to discover the site offshore.

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.10:                The Happisburgh footprints and our early relatives. The oldest footprints outside Africa were discovered in 2013. The talk discusses the discovery, recording and interpretation of the footprints and examines the evidence from elsewhere in Europe to discover which of our human relatives was responsible.

12.10-12.40:                   Practical session: Identifying and interpreting early stone tools.

12.40 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 15.00:                 The environments and developing technology of early humans. East Anglia has a number of key sites for understanding the types of habitat that humans occupied during the Lower Palaeolithic between 1 million and 400,000 years ago. The talk discusses how humans coped with a diversity of environments through the development of technologies such as fire, clothing and shelter.

15.00 – 15.20:               Tea break

15.20 – 16.20:                Island Britain. At times Britain was simply a far-flung peninsula of north-west Europe, at other times an island. The changes in geography were caused through tectonics, climate change and the catastrophic creation of the Dover Strait. The talk discusses the huge impact on human populations entering Britain and the effects of isolation and at times local extinction.

c.16.20:                            Thanks and Close

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Nick Ashton, “Happisburgh”, Minerva (May/June 2014).
Nick Ashton, “News from Happisburgh – Million-year old prints”, British Archaeology (February 2014).
Nick Ashton, et al., “Hominin footprints from Early Pleistocene deposits at Happisburgh, UK.”, PlosOne: (2014).
Rob Dinnis & Chris Stringer, Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story (Natural History Museum 2014)
Simon Parfitt, Nick Ashton, & Simon Lewis, “Happisburgh”, British Archaeology (September/October 2010)
Chris Stringer, Homo Britannicus: The Incredible Story of Human Life in Britain (Allen Lane 2005; Penguin 2006)
John Wymer, The Lower Palaeolithic Occupation of Britain (Wessex Archaeology & English Heritage 1999).

About Dr Nick Ashton

Dr Nick Ashton has worked at the British Museum for over 30 years where he has specialised in the early Palaeolithic of Europe. He has directed excavations at the Suffolk sites of High Lodge, Barnham, Elveden and Hoxne and is currently excavating at Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast. His main research interests are the earliest occupation of Europe, the innovation of technology through environmental change and the development of Britain as an island. He has published extensively on these topics. He was Deputy Director of the Leverhulme-funded Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Project (AHOB) and is currently co-Director of the Pathways to Ancient Britain Project.