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Early Pleistocene conifer macrofossils from Happisburgh, Norfolk, UK, and their environmental implications for early hominin occupation

Farjon, A; Horne, DJ; Parfitt, SA; Buckland, P; Lewis, MD; (2020) Early Pleistocene conifer macrofossils from Happisburgh, Norfolk, UK, and their environmental implications for early hominin occupation. Quaternary Science Reviews , 232 , Article 106115. 10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.106115. Green open access

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Abstract

Continuing coastal erosion in the vicinity of Happisburgh in north Norfolk has revealed archaeological sites documenting early human presence during at least two episodes in the Early and early Middle Pleistocene. At Happisburgh 3, the oldest archaeological site in northern Europe (approximately 900,000 years old) finds include at least 80 flint artefacts and human footprints associated with abundant, well-preserved organic remains. The deposits consist of gravels and estuarine sands and silts contained within a complex of channels, which accumulated in the estuary of a large river, probably the ancestral River Thames. The environmental remains reflect a slow-flowing tidal river, at the limit of tidal influence, and a grassland valley bordered by conifer-dominated woodland. Analyses of the pollen, wood, cones and leaves have identified a diversity of coniferous taxa, with some unexpected central and southern European elements (Pinus mugo ssp. mugo, Pinus mugo ssp. rotundata and Juniperus thurifera) indicating a type of coniferous woodland no longer present in Europe today. Here we present the conifer finds and their environmental implications. A new multi-proxy consensus palaeoclimate reconstruction, using conifer and beetle mutual climatic ranges, confirms and refines previous indications of a more continental climate than today, with significantly colder winters. These results provide a new perspective for understanding the climate and environment encountered by Early Pleistocene hominins at the northernmost limit of their range.

Type: Article
Title: Early Pleistocene conifer macrofossils from Happisburgh, Norfolk, UK, and their environmental implications for early hominin occupation
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.106115
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.106115
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Pleistocene, Palaeoenvironment, Mutual Climatic Range, Conifers, Europe, Hominin
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10097410
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