A team of scientists led by the British Museum have discovered a series of footprints left by early humans in estuary muds at Happisburgh, Norfolk, England over 800,000 years ago. Only footprints found 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 more ancient.
Dr De Groote said she could make out the heel, arch and even toes in some of the prints, the largest of which would have filled a UK shoe size 8 (European size 42; American size 9) .
"When I was told about the footprints, I was absolutely stunned," Dr De Groote told BBC News. "They appear to have been made by one adult male who was about 5ft 9in (175cm) tall and the shortest was about 3ft. The other larger footprints could come from young adult males or have been left by females. The glimpse of the past that we are seeing is that we have a family group moving together across the landscape."
Scientists from the British Museum believe the 800,000-year-old footprints may be related to our very early ancestor known as Homo antecessor, one of the earliest known varieties of human discovered in Europe dating back as far as 1.2 million years ago believed to have been right-handed, making it different from other apes, and may have used a symbolic language, according to archaeologists who found remains in Burgos, Spain in 1994. In 2010 stone tools were found at the same site in Happisburgh, Norfolk, believed to have been used by Homo antecessor. Their brain sizes were roughly between 1,000 and 1,150 cm³, which is smaller than the average 1,350 cm³ brains of modern humans.
How Homo antecessor is related to other Homo species in Europe has been fiercely debated.
Many anthropologists believe there was an evolutionary link between Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergensis. Archaeologist Richard Klein claims Homo antecessor was a separate species completely, that evolved from Homo ergaster. Other experts claim Homo antecessor is actually the same species as Homo heidelbergensis, who lived in Europe between 600,000 and 250,000 years ago in the Pleistocene era.
The Daily Galaxy via BBC and Plos One