Early Pleistocene human occupation at the edge of the boreal zone in northwest Europe

SA Parfitt, NM Ashton, SG Lewis, RL Abel, Geoffrey Coope, MH Field, R Gale, PG Hoare, NR Larkin, MD Lewis, V Karloukovski, BA Maher, SM Peglar, RC Preece, JE Whittaker, CB Stringer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

243 Citations (Scopus)


The dispersal of early humans from Africa by 1.75 Myr ago led to a marked expansion of their range, from the island of Flores in the east to the Iberian peninsula in the west(1-5). This range encompassed tropical forest, savannah and Mediterranean habitats, but has hitherto not been demonstrated beyond 45 degrees N. Until recently, early colonization in Europe was thought to be confined to the area south of the Pyrenees and Alps. However, evidence from Pakefield (Suffolk, UK) at similar to 0.7 Myrindicated that humans occupied northern European latitudes when a Mediterranean-type climate prevailed(6). This provided the basis for an 'ebb and flow' model, where human populations were thought to survive in southern refugia during cold stages, only expanding northwards during fully temperate climates(5). Here we present new evidence from Happisburgh (Norfolk, UK) demonstrating that Early Pleistocene hominins were present in northern Europe >0.78 Myr ago when they were able to survive at the southern edge of the boreal zone. This has significant implications for our understanding of early human behaviour, adaptation and survival, as well as the tempo and mode of colonization after their first dispersal out of Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-233
Number of pages5
Issue number7303
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2010


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