They lived in Great Britain when few people had ventured that far into northern Europe – but around 550,000 years ago a cold snap drove them out of the country again. Who were the mysterious settlers of Fordwich?

Most of us hardly know anything about our great-grandparents or can really imagine the everyday life of our great-great-grandparents. Even the 1980s, a time without the internet or smartphones, seem alien to us today and not like an era that most of us have experienced first-hand. How bizarre is it to put yourself in the shoes of people who lived a good 500,000 years ago? Archaeologists in England are trying to do that.

Because in the southern English town of Fordwich, a total of 238 stone tools were found as early as the 1920s, but they could not be dated exactly at the time. So they were roughly estimated at “between 700,000 and 500,000 years old”, packed in boxes and almost forgotten. Only now did archaeologists become aware of the interesting site and examine it again. This time much more thorough and with the latest technology. For example, the scientists were now able to check when the sediment in which the tools were found was last exposed to sunlight. The result: 542,000 years ago!

Numerous stone tools have been found

However, it is believed that the tools were made much earlier and left on site when a cold snap swept through Britain at about this time. Fordwich was covered by ice and sediment. People probably retreated southwards, where the temperatures were even warmer. It is believed to be one of the oldest groups of people in Britain to have made tools. She may have lived in parallel with groups in the nearby towns of Happisburg and Pakefield, whose settlement traces can also be traced back at least 700,000 years.

Among other things, hand axes and stones with sharp edges were found in Fordwich, which were probably used as scrapers for skins and for carving meat. What was not found: fossils of human bones. Therefore it is not known what kind of people populated England at that time. It can neither have been modern humans – homo sapiens – nor Neanderthals, because neither existed at that time. It could possibly be a species called homo antecessor, early ancestors of modern humans – but evidence for this is still lacking.

Those: “Science News”