Palaeolithic – The Earliest Humans
Discoveries of flint artefacts and butchered bones at the Happisburgh project
in Norfolk indicate the presence of hominins (pre-humans) within the Lower Palaeolithic
landscape of Britain possibly between 800,000 – 900,000 years ago. These are the oldest
such finds yet found from northern Europe, recovered from an interglacial (warmer climate
period) deposit together with plant and animal remains that point to a Scandinavian type
climate with conifer forest and grassland. These earliest hominins shared their environment
with mammoths, lions and hyenas.
The first available evidence we have for early humans or Neanderthals in modern-day Wales dates
from the later Lower Palaeolithic. Although they belong to the same genus, Homo, as us, they were very different
and do not appear to have adapted to their changing environment as well as modern humans. As the ice retreated,
Neanderthal men and women moved westwards in pursuit of prey and in Wales found shelter in limestone caves,
such as Pontnewydd Cave, in Denbighshire, occupied around 230,000 years ago in the middle of an interglacial,
and Coygan Cave in Carmarthenshire where late Neanderthal (60,000 - 35,000 years ago) hand axes have been discovered.