Stone tools reveal the secrets to Britain’s first settlers

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Norfolk made the headlines this week after researchers uncovered stone tools on a beach near Happisburgh, indicating that early humans arrived in Britain nearly a million years ago – several hundred thousand years earlier than previously thought. With environmental data suggesting that temperatures would have been relatively cool at the time, researchers have raised questions as to whether these early Britons could have been among the first humans to use fire and fur clothing for warmth.

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Moving further west, archaeologists in Herefordshire have uncovered the remains of a ‘massive, muscular woman’, who, it has been suggested, may have been a female gladiator. Buried in an elaborate wooden coffin, which was reinforced with iron straps and copper strips, the remains were found in a crouched position.

Another exciting archaeological find in the news this week was made by a Wiltshire man who stumbled across a hoard of more than 52,000 coins dating from the third century AD – one of the largest ever finds of Roman coins in Britain. Using a metal detector, the coins, stored in a huge clay pot, were unearthed around one foot below the surface. Experts have estimated the coins would have been worth around four years’ pay to the average legionary soldier.

Staying with our ancient ancestors, a team at Edinburgh University has discovered that DNA analysis can accurately locate the origins of rural people to within five miles of their family’s home. It is hoped that one day the same could be done for city dwellers with ancestors from different parts of the same country.

Arguably one of this week’s biggest announcements related to members of the Ethiopian Heritage Fund who have located the world’s earliest illustrated Christian book at a remote Ethiopian monastery. Experts believe that the Garima Gospels, written on goatskin and thought to have been written between 330 and 650 AD, is the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.

Elsewhere in the world, 150 never-before-seen human and animal mummies spanning five continents have been brought to Los Angeles to star in the largest exhibition of mummies ever assembled. The collection, donated by 21 European museums, also highlights the work performed by modern scientific techniques, such as CT scans and X-rays, when dating and analysing the remains.

Back in England, the youngest survivor of the transatlantic liner Lancastria, which was sunk by German bombs in June 1940, has appealed to Prime Minister David Cameron for the 70th anniversary of the tragedy to be remembered. Around 7,000 British serviceman and civilians were killed after the ship went down near the French port of St Nazaire.

A record-breaking piece of history news in the last seven days was the sale of the Turner masterpiece, Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino, for almost £30 million at Sotheby’s in London. The fifth Earl of Rosebery originally bought the painting in 1878.

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And finally, environmentalists battling to save the green ridge, known as the San Francisco cornisa, in Madrid, Spain, which is depicted in Francisco Goya’s painting La Pradera de San Isidro, have been granted a reprieve from the famous slope’s imminent development after the regional high court ruled that the plan violates land-use laws for historic properties.