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Earliest known sites of human occupation

c. 500,000 BC High Lodge, one of the earliest known sites of human occupation in Britain. Early modern humans leave evidence of flint knapping by the side of a lake.

The site was first discovered in the later 19th century during the extraction of clay for making bricks. Flint scrapers and flakes found by workmen in the sediments were collected by eminent archaeologists, including Canon Greenwell. An initial account of the site was published by Sir John Evans in 1872,and four years later S.B.J. Skertchly published further details of the geology. The site was re-examined by Prof. J.E. Marr of Cambridge in 1920. The first detailed archaeological excavation was carried out by G. de G. Sieveking for the British Museum over seven seasons, beginning in 1962. Over 2,000 flint artefacts were recovered. Difficulties in dating the human activity led to further excavations in 1988 by Jill Cook and Nick Ashton. The presence of flake tools led to considerable academic debate, since it was thought that this tool-making technique did not come into use until about 250,000 years later.

Incontrovertible geological evidence helped date the site, and environmental samples built up a picture of the landscape. The climate was similar to that of today. The lake had a reed-swamp at its margins, and was surrounded by a woodland of birch, pine and spruce with areas of open grassland. Over the next 50,000 years the lake dried out and the climate became colder. By about 450,000 years ago an advancing ice front during the Anglian Glaciation lifted the sediments and deposited them part-way up a nearby hill. Although the clays were distorted many of the stone tools remained in their original positions. A small display about the site can be seen in Mildenhall MuseumAshton, Nick, and Dean, Phil ; Mildenhall 500,000 years ago. Discovering ancient toolmakers at High Lodge; No. 5 in the series "The Local History of Mildenhall Area", Mildenhall Museum Publications, ISBN 0 905457 04 8

 

A Forest Heath District Council (Suffolk) Project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the Millennium Festival 2000 Designed by ArtAtac