Monday, 24 February 2014

Back to Africa, human migration and British evolution over one million years and more ...

Thankfully, I see, I did qualify the last of my four posts last year on the rise of this earth of ours, and the spread of its peoples ... that more would come to light.

Photo of Homo - 
see Wikipedia

When I went up to London the other day I had time to spare in Eastbourne before the train left, as I’d hedged my bets re the flooding etc making sure I’d arrive in town for my appointment.

I browsed the newsagents picking up the New Scientist which appeared to have a few interesting blog-type articles in it ...

... one of which relates to the isolation of the tribes of Africa, once their species had started to migrate north populating the rest of the world after inter-breeding with the Neanderthals they encountered in the Middle East and further north.
Mitochrondial DNA-chart showing large
migrations of human populations ...
NB it is a map of the world - for easier
viewing check out Wiki and the photo data

At the time of my earlier posts in 2013 I’m sure I briefly thought well what about those peoples left behind ... letting them just get on with it ... til modern humans eventually emigrated back into Africa: how brazenly ridiculous can I be?!

The article I spotted is titled ‘The Return to Africa that Time Forgot’ reminding me of my previous posts ... it had been established that our homo sapiens species migrated out of Africa 65,000 years ... but what else happened ...

my iphone photo - see better
picture in the actual New
Scientist article
... other migrations had occurred during those 65,000 years and that western Eurasian genes had entered the African populations sometime between 900 and 3,000 years ago, hinting at important human migrations in historic times, that barely registered in written records.

The article (link below) refers to the ancient stories that seem to offer anecdotal explanations for the genetic findings ... viz the Bible and the Koran ...

So we all have a genetic legacy of Neanderthal in us, to a lesser or greater degree, including the sub-Saharan tribes or peoples  ... confirming that early humanity did U turns too ... and returned to their African roots.

Now here’s my new dilemma ... my original posts only referred to us:  homo sapiens ... yet there are four (main) human species in the story of our British evolution ...  as I found out from my research and in Wikipedia:

homo antecessor (earliest known human species): discovered in Spain  and so named in 1997; lived approx 1.2 – 0.8 million years ago.

homo heidelbergensis (sometimes called homo rhodesiensis): found in Europe, Africa and China.  Discovered, so named in 1908; lived approx 0.6 – 0.35 million years ago.

homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man): found in Europe and Western Asia.  Discovered, so named in the mid 1800s; lived approx 0.35 – 0.03 million years ago.

homo sapiens (modern man): found worldwide. Discovered, so named in about 1758; living from about 200,000 years ago ... and still going strong, I think!

Map from Wiki showing Happisburgh
during the early Pleistocene age;
note the land bridge to Europe: still
connected 800,000 years ago
To add to the excitement of our British evolution, recently it was announced that human footprints had been found in Happisburgh, Norfolk ... dating back 800,000 years – our ancestors from the homo antecessor period.

Prior to this discovery, the oldest footprint in the UK was only 7,500 years old ... one of our homo sapiens ancestors.

To tie all this together The Natural History Museum has a new exhibition entitled “Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story”.

At the entrance to the exhibition we will be able to see casts of the four human species in our evolution.

As the notes to the exhibition highlight – catch a glimpse of the drama and treasure you will find in our evolutionary story.

On the Natural History Museum site – there are films showing: 

  • how the four homo casts were made ... 
  • how the team of scientists uncovered and recorded our 800,000 year old homo antecessor footprints ...

Eddie Izzard

... and as I described in those earlier posts, where Eddie Izzard was used as an example with his Neanderthal features, there are films showing the tracing of Neanderthal DNA in other celebrities, such as Bill Bailey, Clive Anderson and Alice Roberts.

I’m really looking forward to seeing this Exhibition and looking back at Britain long before the Romans, Saxons and Vikings arrived ...

Then just to add to the general mix ... The Vikings (Vikings: Life and Legend) are coming to the British Museum ... I gather they arrive on 6th March 2014!

Science in all its disciplines just amazes me about how much is accessible to be researched, to be recorded ... I love this learning ...the internet offers so many possibilities to us, while I'm lucky to live near enough to London for regular visits.

NewScientist article by Catherine Brahic

NaturalHistory Museum Site – promoting the exhibition: Britain, One Million Years of the Human Story ... check out the films here ...

Wikipedia Homo page

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


  1. I can't believe I am the first comment on a post of yours!

    I would SO love to live near there so I could see these exhibits on a regular basis.

  2. You have inspired me Hilary - to do what, I am not quite sure but thank you. Perhaps I will buy a copy of the New Scientist myself. I would certainly love to see the Natural History Museum's latest exhibition, time allowing. We plan to take the grandchildren there when they are older. Their footprints are still fresh on my kitchen floor!
    Love the way you break everything down into bite sized chunks by the way. Debbie :-)

  3. Those footprints on Norfolk - amazing!! I love that the more we study DNA etc, the more its proven just how complex and linked the human race is! I also find it amazing that scientists can still find traces of Neanderthal DNA in humans! Brilliant! Take care

  4. You always get out to see the most fascinating exhibits. I would very much enjoy that Viking one too.

  5. Have you read the book, The Seven Daughters of Eve (2001, ISBN 0-393-02018-5) is a book by Bryan Sykes that presents the theory of human mitochondrial genetics to a general audience. Sykes explains the principles of genetics and human evolution, the particularities of mitochondrial DNA, and analyses of ancient DNA to genetically link modern humans to prehistoric ancestors. I found it to be very interesting as it found the female line back through DNA. Love your posting. Once again I go away with more knowledge than I had before. :-)
    Thank you for dropping by my new blog.

  6. Wow, Hilary. So so interesting. I would love to visit these exhibits with you one day.

  7. I just goes to show we are all connected. I'd love to see these exhibits!

  8. I wish I could see that exhibit - very interesting. I love to learn and read about evolution.

    My problem is how to put it in with my Christian religion. But then I know God can do anything and His timing is His.


  9. Eddie Izzard is a Neanderthal? I can see it.

  10. @ Keith - yes you are first to comment .. and if you ever get to London, then we'll visit an exhibition or two

    @ Debbie - the NHM's site has lots of information .. well worth looking at - and I hope you can get down and actually see it - it's on til the end of September.

    Sounds a good idea for a later visit for the grandchildren .. they'll love it: fantastic they've been visiting you .. fresh footprints on the kitchen floor.

    Thanks re the bit-sized chunks .. I'm glad it's easier to read and thus take in ... I find it easier to write that way.

    @ Old Kitty - yes the footprints were found last year in Norfolk - and they were only visible for two weeks - talk about scientific timing!

    Thankfully scientists keep looking for things and then are able to tell us about them .. I find the whole DNA links really incredible .. perhaps you can get to see the Exhibition: if Charlie and Gumtree will let you?!

    @ LG - I'm looking forward to seeing both these Exhibitions .. but I love hearing more about our life ...

    @ Paula - thanks for the book ref ... and no I haven't seen or read any of Bryan Sykes' work; it sounds very detailed to me, even if presented as to a general audience.

    The tv programmes using Eddie Izzard last year .. traced the female DNA right back to the Khoisan tribes of Southern Africa ... I hope they reshow it .. as it was a fascinating series ..

    @ Karen - well I'm here and not likely to be far away .. so come to London and we'll meet up.

    @ Bish - it does show that we're all interconnected somewhere along the line ... and do come over and join me.

    @ Sandie - I'm sure it will be a fascinating Exhibition ...

    And that's why I put in the link across to the New Scientist article for people to read up about the religious works; it doesn't say a lot - yet gives ideas. But as you say God can do anything, as is his way.

    @ Alex - He's 5% Neanderthal - which is the maximum left in anyone's DNA today ... he does have the same DNA markers as a Neanderthal ...

    Thanks - I'm just delighted you're all enjoying the post and information on our ancestors ... cheers Hilary

  11. This is all fascinating stuff. I did archaeology at University and studied human evolution. It's amazing to see all this new evidence appearing in the UK.

  12. It's pretty amazing the things that can be replicated today. And we're just touching the tip of Science, which makes it even more amazing.

    I'd like to see the Vikings exhibit when they come!! If you go, I hope you'll be posting a bit about it. :)

  13. Fascinating, thank you for this, Hilary. I forget the institution (National Geographic, perhaps)which provides one's genetic code through a swab sample. Members of my family have done it, and apparently we all have a small percentage of Neanderthal in us indeed. Very interesting, the finding at Happisburg, Norfolk.

  14. Very interesting, Hilary. The more we uncover of our history, the more we learn how long man has endured on earth. That's a good indication.

  15. I read the article about the truly ancient footprints when it was published here. Fascinating!

    A friend is working on a cycle of stories about 'doggerland', the piece of land that now lies under the North Sea, that flooded in human memory (which, actually, is very long). It amazes me when I see what we are learning, and how much - all during a time when we tend to be world-weary and think we've seen it all.

    Another gem, dear Hilary!

  16. My husband is amazed at the methodical way you blog these facts. He loves Science and Evolution.
    We miss England a lot. Always have you to thank. Take Care.

  17. I look forward to reading more about this Exhibition. I hope you will write a post about it!

  18. I am fascinated by the whole footprint thing, and I remember well the series you wrote last year. How very fun to revisit the topic with new eyes and more information.
    Well done, my dear, dear friend.

    Tina @ Life is Good
    A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014

  19. Some great research here, Hilary. New Scientist has fascinating articles. How timely that you found an article on a topic you've pondered and posted on. We are lucky in this time that research is much easier due to online databases etc.


  20. Did you read about the evidence that was found in South Africa that man used fire to cook food as long ago as 300,000 years? It's so fascinating to read these things--and imagine what life must have been like during those early days.

  21. interesting. I was unaware about evolution. Scientists surely have a lot of info.

  22. @ Anne - you must be amazed at all you read and find out about re human evolution today and how much is now known.

    @ Rosey - research is opening up so many doors, yet pillage and vandalism is also destroying so much - very sad.

    I will see both exhibitions .. and will write about them ..

    @ Silvia - you're right .. we can find out more about our genetic background .. probably a medical institution, but I can't remember either.

    I don't think I need to check now - as I know I have some proportion of Neanderthal is me .. and I can't see us coming from anywhere exciting, other than being genetically English with obvious roots ... I'd like to be from an exotic background!

    Isn't it fascinating about the footprints find on the beach in Norfolk ...

    @ DG - as you say we've been around a long time .. and I'm just glad I can find out about it .. and we can learn as much as we want from those findings ..

    @ Diana - that's great you picked up about the footprints via the publication in the States.

    How fascinating to hear that your friend is working on stories about Doggerland - incredible piece of land .. that was once a bridge across to northern Europe. I'd love to read those ...

    We keep learning and so much more keeps appearing ... tiny pieces of the puzzle ... it's something I find just so interesting ..

    Thankfully the professionals keep going about their job ... I think we're world-weary re conflict, corruption and control (dictatorship/ authoritarianism/ or just plain big bullies with money) ...

    Thanks Diana .. so pleased you enjoyed it ..

    @ Munir - well I'm honoured your husband appreciates my blogging - lovely you show him! Thank you.

    There's a lot to be said for this little island .... you just enjoy New York and the States with your family .. long settled now.

    @ Julia - yes I'll be posting about both the exhibitions, when I get to visit ...

    @ Tina - thanks re last year's series; usually we write about forests being found during times of intense storms ... but this time the whole of that part of the Norfolk coast was 'settled' or regularly crossed by those early peoples ...

    I'm happy you enjoyed your revisitation ...

    @ Denise - many thanks .. but using others' info and just re-presenting it somewhat.

    That particular New Scientist proved really interesting .. always worries me when I find other things to blog about?! So much to write up ... and yes, definitely, I'm lucky that access is easy to information that I enjoy and can pass on via the blog ..

    @ Stephanie - I have read about that South African article, and I'd intended to write about it .. but got side-tracked by something .. I'm sure I've kept it. Thanks for reminding me (us) ... to think about those early days ...

    It'd be an interesting post to write about: early foods and when fire came to the fore ...

    @ Lady Lilith - I'm glad you enjoyed the post, while realising how much knowledge we do have.

    Cheers to you all .. thanks so much for commenting and appreciating the post .. Hilary

  23. This is so interesting, Hillary. I've learned new things such as the "four (main) human species". Every time, someone discovers something new about early civilizations, I get goosebumps. love it.

  24. Hi Hilary,

    I'm terribly sorry it has been so long since I commented. Have been overwhelmed by a lot of personal stuff. However, I'm here now.

    Fascinating and in-depth. Coincidentally, I'm going down to the Natural History Museum in a couple of months. Hopefully, they will let me back out.

    On a side note, I've read your previous posting. I also take this opportunity to congratulate Michelle on her third blogging anniversary.

    Be well and enjoy the sunshine, Hilary.


  25. 800,000 years boggles my mind. And that a footprint survived! I'm fascinated by the evolution of our species, so this post was right up my proverbial alley. Thanks for the link to the Natural History Museum.

  26. Hi thanks for stopping by my blog and taking the time to comment. Fascinating post! Looking forward to visiting your part of the UKnext week. :)

  27. Ps hubby had his mitochondrial DNA tested some time back and found he's descended from Helena one of the 7 daughters of Eve, who originated 20,000 years ago from central and west Eurasia. His Y chromosome signature is from one if the Celtic tribes if Britain. Don't know what use this information is to him but it's interesting. Lol

  28. It makes sense, now you suggest it, that if Africans could travel over to Europe and breed with the locals, that some of those people could travel in the opposite direction. Odd then that hasn't really been considered before.

  29. Fascinating - there's been a lot of twists in our tale and great that increased technology means we are still finding out more. I wonder if Neanderthals still survive in isolated cases (eg Bigfoot) - it might be a myth but imagine what we could learn from them!

  30. What an incredible journey you're on for your blog. Four species of human beings - I don't know why it surprises me, because it certainly makes sense. I'm sure you're really going to enjoy all these exhibits at the museum, and i know I'm going to enjoy reading about them when you go :)

  31. My goodness, this is a most fascinating post, Hilary.
    The exhibition will be wonderful.

  32. Interesting stuff! There is an incredible number of things to be researched and explored. You are blessed to live so close to visit such wonderful places!

    Have a great week!

  33. @ Teresa - like you I love learning more and trying to piece some parts of the puzzle into a more understandable (desperately simple) view of life on earth from the beginning of earth's creation ..

    @ Gary - wonderful to see you here and I know life is not easy for you - just keep well and be at peace.

    So pleased you're coming down to the Museum in a couple of months - enjoy your visit ... Yes, they could easily fossilize both of us couldn't they - I'd better bear that in mind for my next visit and have my exit plan in place.

    The Ubuntu blog-hop organised by Michelle has been very successful ..

    We have sunshine this morning once again .. this afternoon I suspect more rain! Loving it for now ...

    @ Lee - well to my mind is how on earth did they think it might be a footprint? But it is an archaeological site .. so probably their antenna were out for anything unusual in the small area they're digging/researching in.

    I hope you enjoy the NHM and that the links work for overseas internet visitors.

    @ Akelamulu - I hope our weather is sunny for us and thus you .. so you can enjoy your visit.

    Fascinating about your hubby having his mitochondrial DNA tested some years ago ... and then being given his originations .. how fabulous - well I'm interested!

    I just find it incredible that the scientists can trace these markers back so far ... What an interesting combination of central/west Eurasian and Celtic mix he must be!

    @ Patsy .. I expect they had wondered, but were involved in tracing those markers back to where most of us are: northern Europe.

    Also I suspect they were collecting evidence ... as I know studies and research collections are going on of all the individual tribes of peoples in the inaccessible parts of the world ..

    @ Nick - how lovely to see you .. and you bring up Bigfoot - they're fairly convinced Neanderthals have died out .. and whether Sasquatch still lives appears unlikely, but there may be ancestral bones we might find one day.

    @ MJ - I just post along and hope people enjoy .. I'm very lucky they seem to, and I'm not tied I can write what I feel like writing about ...

    I'll post about my visits anon ..

    @ Margie - so pleased you enjoyed it .. and I'm certain the Exhibitions will be very good.

    @ Karen - I am lucky in living near London and being able to access so much, while being able to learn too.

    Cheers to you all from a sunny morning in Eastbourne .. Hilary

  34. That is all so fascinating! Really amazing that a footprint has survived.

  35. You are always venturing out to fascinating exhibits to enlighten us, Hilary! It's incredible how that footprint has survived all of these years. Chockfull of interesting discoveries!


  36. Interesting post ! Now where are Adam and Eve ? We are all supposed to be their descendants, if that would be true we are all brothers and sisters, lol !

  37. I find this SO fascinating!!! I love that I get to learn from you, Hilary. It's WAY fun...

  38. Yes he is an interesting mix! ;)

    Thanks for the info on the exhibition. Unfortunately I doubt we will be abe to meet up as we have organised trips with the travel company every day except Thursday would you believe and we set off for home on Friday morning! But hey, you never know I can always email you if things change. X

  39. The journey to becoming who we are is fascinating. I read the 7 Daughters of Eve book on how we all descend from 7 common mothers.

  40. It is amazing those footprints were found when you consider how many footprints have come after them:~)

    Sometimes I think we are meant to learn about our history -- the good and bad...maybe because some day WE will become the history to be found.

    I have always loved Anthropology and Archeology. I minored in college in Anthropology. There's so much to learn.

    Like others said, I envy you for the chance to see this exhibits. The Viking exhibit sounds fascinating. I'm sure once you see it, we'll hear about least I hope so.

    Also, thanks for the links. I'll have to check them out.

    Cheers to you, Hilary:~)

  41. @ Lynn - they had their antennae out .. ie they were archaeologists in the area, but these were in the sand ... but had survived.

    @ Julie - we're lucky here .. there is a lot going on, as more and more of us like finding things out. 'Chockfull' is a great word! and so appropriate for what we keep finding ..

    @ Gattina - we are all related somewhere along the line ...

    @ Morgan - thanks we do live in interesting times .. and I love I learn too!

    @ Akelamula - your husband sure has some great interesting DNA in him!

    Funny isn't it - that your one day free is the one I can't make .. but if your plans do change .. please email and we can meet.

    @ Mary - isn't our journey to who we are today just so interesting. I haven't read Bryan Sykes' book .. it's in my 'brain's TBR thought list'!! Seeing as a few of you have mentioned it ..

    @ Sara - the Happisburgh area is being eroded by the sea ... and these were just by sheer good fortune exposed for about a fortnight ... yet were recognised ... now the tides and the sand have covered them up again.

    We are very likely to become the history to be found ... though my old bones won't tell them much!! But I agree about we are meant to find these things out ...

    I'd like to have done more studying - but if I had I wouldn't be here today .. so perhaps I'll be happy with where I'm at.

    The British Museum's Vikings and the Natural History Museum's 1 million years of humanity will be wonderful to be able to see ...

    Glad you'll check the links out ..

    Enjoy your day everyone - cheers Hilary

  42. I think humans in general are always curious about where we come from and this post is just filled with wonderful historical information for us to ponder about just that.

    800,000 year old footprints, just amazing..that they've even survived all that time is almost beyond comprehension!!

  43. How interesting! It is grand that you get to see the exhibits. Thank you for another informative and enjoyable post, Hilary!

  44. How fascinating! I learn so much visiting your blog. And I love learning about Vikings.

  45. @ Jen - we do wonder about things don't we .. and are curious: so pleased this sent you off having a think!

    Those footprints are quite extraordinary .. they were under the sands, but the sea exposed them for a short time .. thankfully when archaeologists were working there .. just amazes me ..

    @ Connie - I am lucky I can get up to London reasonably easily, and I'll enjoy the posts and then writing up about them ...

    @ Christine - glad you enjoy your visits here .. and then the Vikings - that should be so interesting ..

    Cheers from a wet Eastbourne today! Hilary

  46. What a wonderful post! I'm a huge fan of natural history; the evolution of man (of any species, really) fascinates me. Neanderthal DNA in ours doesn't surprise me (blame Jean M. Auel), but it's nice to have confirmation of something that common sense implied.

    So glad to have found your blog (via the A2Z minions page--fellow minion here). I'll be back often.

    Guilie @ Making History: join the #AZchat!

  47. Sorry Hilary, but I would want to take issue with the concept of ‘British’ evolution. That is the evolution of mankind.

    Otherwise a very interesting summary. I didn’t know that there are still traces of neanderthals visible in in eddie Izzard, for instance.The Neanderthals are so-called because that’s where their bones were first found: in the Neandertal.

  48. @ Guilie - many thanks .. there's so much we're finding out. I hadn't heard of Jean Auel and not having children .. so haven't seen or read any of her Earth's Children's series about prehistoric Europe ... she is obviously extremely intelligent and well read.

    The Neanderthal markers in our DNA have provided interesting journeys for some people tracing their ancestry.

    Delighted to have met you too .. I'll see you around.

    @ Friko - I'm sure I phrased my post incorrectly .. I certainly wasn't just limiting evolution to Britain - that would be preposterous to say the least.

    I should change the title of the post .. though that's not so easy ... and I think I'll leave it, as I hope I emphasised enough that the Natural History Museum's exhibition was called "Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story" ... just the small bits that happened to this island nation ... and referred to evolution of mankind ...

    Certainly I wasn't promoting British Evolution as being the only thing ... but I do completely take your point - my grammar deserted me ... apologies!

    The Neandertal Museum must be a very interesting place to visit and perhaps one day I'll get there.

    Thanks to you both .. lovely to see you and to have informed comments .. cheers Hilary

  49. Mrs. Ples is the popular nickname for the most complete skull of an Australopithecus africanus specimen ever found in South Africa. She was discovered by Dr Robert Broom on 18 April 1947 at Sterkfontein Caves near Krugersdorp. This was just down the road from where we used to live. I often wondered what went on in the stone age in our garden!!! Diane

  50. I love all this stuff; it's so fascinating. I studied anthropology, among other things at University, and coincidentally have just been reading an article about the Genographic Project, and the Neanderthal mix in our ancestry, because Spencer Wells who is in charge of the project, is now in NZ trying to piece together some more missing pieces. Thank you Hilary.

  51. @ Diane - I hadn't heard of "Mrs Ples" but I knew the Sterkfontein Caves were historically important .. though no idea exactly why: I guess I wasn't that interested when I lived in SA.

    I can imagine how you wondered about Stone Age comings and goings around your garden gate - fascinating to know and think about .. thanks.

    @ Juliet - there seems to be a lot of research going on at the moment about our genes ... and also recording and collating as much information as can be gathered from the small tribes left in remote areas of the world ...

    It's good to read New Zealand is being involved in the project .. and that you've got one of the experts spending time looking into the links.

    I'm certain there are links to Chinese connections too - as I'd heard mention about the way of cultivation in South America and in New Zealand on the steep slopes as they do in China today ..

    These puzzles that become more accessible to us non-scientific people are so helpful in our understanding ..

    Thanks Diane and Juliet - two interesting comments adding to the post .. cheers to you both - Hilary

  52. it sounds like a fascinating exhibit...the origins of our species...of us as a people is so intriguing.

  53. I finally made it to read this post!
    Fascinating stuff!
    And Africa features strongly in the whole equation!

  54. @ Brian - apologies didn't pick your comment up. It's so interesting how the scientists are piecing bits of our puzzle together .. and I'm looking forward to the Natural Museum exhibition ..

    @ Michelle - thanks for coming over to read the post. Delighted you enjoyed the post .. and yes Africa appears to be the cradle of our human species ...

    Cheers and thanks to you both .. Hilary