thinking about archaeology

Oldest footprints outside Africa

Happisburgh prints (c) AHOB Martin Bates

Photo AHOB/Martin Bates

Happisburgh has done it again! Already the location of the oldest human artefacts in northern Europe, and the furthest north any signs of early humans have been found, now the Norfolk coast has given us human footprints – nearly a million years old. They are by far the oldest outside Africa. As Nick Ashton (British Museum) writes in the new edition of British Archaeology, only those at Laetoli in Tanzania (3.6 million years) and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya (1.5 million years) are older. No human fossils have yet been found of this age in northern Europe, so we’re guessing which species made them: Chris Stringer (Natural History Museum) thinks Homo antecessor is the most likely candidate. More on this here.

You can read about this discovery in British Archaeology, along with a preview of the exhibition at the Natural History Museum which features the find, and much more (and which opens on February 13). I spoke to Chris Stringer about the show, and to Alfons Kennis, one of the Dutch twins who made the extraordinary life-sized models, one neanderthal, one early modern human – two ultra-realistic, stark naked men.

Cover with Spine

The magazine also goes to the British Museum. The first part of the BM’s new extension, under construction since 2011, opens in March with an exhibition about Vikings. I went to see the installation of its first exhibit – the conserved remains of the world’s largest Viking ship. And Astrid Kähler writes about the Dragon Harald Fairhair, a Viking longship launched last year, in the largest project of its kind ever undertaken. Ahead of its arrival in Britain and the US, we hear how it feels to be among the crew.

Broadcaster Dan Snow talks about the importance of history in his family, and first world war archaeology: “The history that we’re taught in schools is so riddled with myths and particular points of view, that I think archaeology can provide that extraordinarily objective, quite new connection with the past.” Dan Snow is the Council for British Archaeology’s new president.

There are also features on Northampton Castle, Gertrude Bell, Eastbourne Ancestors, and more, and Requiem, our annual tribute to archaeologists and lovers of antiquity who died in the past year.

If you are not already a member of the Council for British Archaeology, or a subscriber, you can find British Archaeology in Smiths, at the Apple Store and online. See http://www.britisharchaeology.org/ba135

British Museum Vikings

British Museum Vikings

And here’s something else that caught my eye in the work-in-progress Viking gallery – altogether a fabulous space – an information panel awaiting its moment, quietly chattering away to itself.

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