According to The Guardian, archeologists working in Norfolk, England, have discovered “78 pieces of razor-sharp flint shaped into primitive cutting and piercing tools” in an area of sediment previously believed to have been formed 840,000 or 950,000 years ago.
This means the earliest humans were living in modern-day Britain at least 80,000 years earlier than previously thought. The tools probably belonged to a hunter-gatherer species called Homo antecessor:
The early Britons would have lived alongside sabre-toothed cats and hyenas, primitive horses, red deer and southern mammoths in a climate similar to that of southern Britain today, though winters were typically a few degrees colder.
“These tools from Happisburgh are absolutely mint-fresh. They are exceptionally sharp, which suggests they have not moved far from where they were dropped,” said Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London. The population of Britain at the time most likely numbered in the hundreds or a few thousand at most.
Up until now, scientists believed humans stayed clear of Britain because it was so cold. Research shows, however, the climate at that time was warm, though heading towards an ice age. Here’s another fact I found interesting:
The latest haul of stone tools was buried in sediments that record a period of history when the polarity of the Earth’s magnetic field was reversed. At the time, a compass needle would have pointed south instead of north. The last time this happened was 780,000 years ago, so the tools are at least that old.
You can read more about this discovery in the journal Nature.