Ancient tools found in Britain show that humans lived in northern Europe 200,000 years earlier than previously thought, at a time when the climate was warm enough for lions, elephants and saber tooth tigers to also roam what is now England.
Scientists said Wednesday that 32 black flint artifacts, found in river sediments in Pakefield in eastern England, date back 700,000 years and represent the earliest unequivocal evidence of human presence north of the Alps.
Scientists had long held that humans had not migrated north from the relatively warm climates of the Mediterranean region until half a million years ago.
"The discovery that early humans could have existed this far north this long ago was startling," said Prof. Chris Stringer, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum, one of four British scientists involved in the study who announced the finding at a news conference in London. Their discovery is detailed in the scientific journal Nature.
One anthropologist is quoted as advising caution, probably a good idea at this point. We'll have to check on the actual paper.
More at the BBC with pictures of the supposed artifacts (and a nice map). This story indicates they are dated by species correlation, specifically a species of vole that is known from this period. The picture of smaller artifacts don't appear to be a slam-dunk, but the context in which they were found apparently makes their status as geofacts unlikely, according to Stringer. The first photo of a single artifact looks much more plausibly like a true artifact.
If this pans out, of course, we here at ArchaeoBlog will be even more insistent in our questioning of why the hell supposed pre-Clovis artifacts in North American are so freakin' difficult to identify as such.
Archaeologists thrilled about Mayan mural find
Archaeologists said Tuesday that they had uncovered the final intact wall of the earliest-known Mayan mural, declaring that the find -- which dates to 100 B.C. -- overturns what was previously known about the origins of Mayan art, writing and royalty.
"It's really breathtaking how beautiful this is," said the mural's discoverer, William Saturno, an archaeologist with the University of New Hampshire and the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
"I was awestruck by its state of preservation. Its brilliant colors and fluid lines looked as though they could have been painted yesterday."
Scholars are calling the discovery the "Sistine Chapel" of the pre-classic Mayan world and say it is one of the most significant archaeological finds in decades.
More from National Geographic along with a picture.