Experts seek evidence of Stone Age man

STAFF from the British Museum left behind the safe environs of the laboratory to brave the elements of a snow-blown Suffolk nature reserve in pursuit of Stone Age man.

STAFF from the British Museum left behind the safe environs of the laboratory to brave the elements of a snow-blown Suffolk nature reserve in pursuit of Stone Age man.

A three-strong team have resumed digging at Maidscross Hill nature reserve near Lakenheath, in search of traces of the earliest East Anglian residents.

The reserve took on a fittingly prehistoric air in the wintry weather as the team set up an electric augur to drill into the icy ground to gauge the depth of a prehistoric river.

The team first visited the site in January 2004 when they excavated deposits which marked the course of the river which flowed more than half a million years ago.

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Nick Ashton, senior curator in the department of European prehistory at the British Museum, said: "Hand axes were found here in the 1860s and we believe this is one the earliest places man lived in Britain.

"We're looking for a river bed of an ancient river which flowed from the Midlands across what is now the Wash Basin across East Anglia and out into the sea somewhere near Great Yarmouth, which will give some idea of how early Britains lived."

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The team has already traced the river bed, via gravel deposits left when the river's course changed and the modern landscape was formed.

Having already sifted through earth deposits found during last year's excavations, the team is now attempting to gauge the depth of the river and drilling down at various points along its path to depths of around five metres, to give a clearer impression of how the landscape may have appeared to our earliest forebears.

The river flowed through East Anglia between 500,000 and 600,000 years ago and traces of soil from the Midlands have been traced in sediments discovered at Lakenheath.

Experts believe that the human habitation at the site makes it one of the most important in Britain and it is hoped the current investigations will help place the hand-axes and other indications of human habitation in a stronger context.

Archaeologists expect to spend two days on the site, in which time they also hope to gauge the depth of one of the ancient river's tributaries, which also runs across the site.

n A rare medieval burial ground, complete with eight skeletons, has been found in Thetford.

Archaeologists from Norfolk County Council made the finds as they excavated the former Crown House site on the corner of Norwich Road and Croxton Road, which is due to be developed into 24 flats and houses.

Project manager Heather Wallis said: "It is unusual because it doesn't seem to be in consecrated ground. It could indicate they were outcasts from society for whatever reason, whether they had died by suicide or on the gallows.

"I haven't come across one of these before in my career. It is certainly unusual to be able to excavate one.

"It is very interesting for Thetford because the site is just outside the boundaries of the medieval town. The site is beyond the town and that's why it would have been used for outcasts."

Shards of pottery found on the site suggest the burials date from some time between the 12th and 15th Century. Specialist testing will be done to work out exactly how old they are.

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