The megafauna that would have roamed Europe during this
period included rhinoceroses, elephants, sabre-tooth cats, and hippopotami.
The geography was also very different from the present day. Britain was
connected to the Continent by a broad land bridge, which would have
allowed early humans to move in and out easily.
The land was low with no steep hills. Very large rivers
dominated the landscape and could have been used as tracks by migrating
humans. The Pakefield site was on the floodplains of the River Bytham,
which was Britain's largest river before it was destroyed by glaciers
some 450,000 years ago.
'Stone Age gold'
Commenting in Nature, Wil Roebroeks of the Netherlands'
Leiden University, said the team's data was 'Stone Age gold', but it
did not provide evidence of colonisation.
'The Pakefield artefacts probably do not testify to
a colonisation of the colder temperate environments of northern
Europe, but more to a short-lived human expansion of range, in rhythm
with climatic oscillations.'
Professor Stringer said that the discovery opened up
a whole new area of research.
'The fact that we know that there were people in
Britain at this early date means we can start to look for further
evidence of them and perhaps one day be lucky enough to find fossil
remains of these people.'