http://www.ucl.ac.uk/boxgrove/man/homo.htm

BOXGROVE MAN: HOMO HEIDELBERGENSIS

BOXGROVE ONE: THE TIBIA

The left tibia found in 1993 was

The Boxgrove tibia

It was thought to belong to a species called Homo heidelbergensis, named after a jaw found found earlier this century in Mauer, near Heidelberg in Germany.

Compared to moden humans, H. heidelbergensis had a

The Mauer jaw had a dozen remaining teeth, all the teeth on the right side, and the first and second incisor, canine and third molar on the left side.

Both the Boxgrove teeth are heavily worn, so we may speculate that the diet of these people must have included some extremely tough or gritty material which contained sand grains possibly from the beach area.


THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE BOXGROVE PEOPLE

The archaeology at this area is particularly important because its preservation and composition allow detailed examination of the activities of Middle Pleistocene hominids, 500 000 years ago.

Butchery techniques: the opportunity to study butchery techniques and resource utilization is exceptionally rare in the Old Stone Age; where, given the extreme antiquity of sites, most material is in a derived context.

Cut marks on the bones, made by flint tools, show that carcasses were skinned, disarticulated and defleshed at the site, prior to the bones being smashed open to extract their marrow. Some of the bones and antler were subsequently modified and used as tools to work flint.

Evidence of cutmarks

The evidence uncovered by the Boxgrove Project suggests that the behavioural repertoire of these hominids was more complex than many researchers had hitherto envisaged.

The finds during the 1995 excavations included the major bones of a rhino, most of which bore impressive cutmarks. We can confidently assume that that the Boxgrove hominids were butchering mammals as large as rhinos and bears.

A bear jaw.


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BOXGROVE TWO AND THREE: THE HOMINID BITES BACK.

Last summer, archaeologists unearthed two teeth: a right and left lower incisor.

Both came from the same individual thanks to the detection of a deep scratch that extended across both teeth.

The tooth itself provides many new avenues for research, such as dietary preferences, which can be reconstructed from analysis of both microscopic wear marks on the tooth surface, and the build up of calculus (tartar) around the base of the teeth. The calculus may contain trapped fossilised particles of food debris and bacteria.

The Boxgrove tooth with the Mauer mandible.

The age at death may be estimated from the degree of wear and incremental growth structures.

There is also pathological alteration of the root, indicating that the individual suffered from severe periodontal disease.

Mark Roberts, Director of the Boxgrove Project, says

"The discovery of the tooth, in association with spectacularly preserved archaeology, has made this the most successful season of research at the site and will lead to a far greater understanding of the lifestyles of our early ancestors than was previously thought possible."

The incisors should provide clues to the diet and behaviour of the Boxgrove people. The teeth are being analysed at the Natural History Museum, where research has indicated that the teeth are:


THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE BOXGROVE PEOPLE

The archaeology at this area is particularly important because its preservation and composition allow detailed examination of the activities of Middle Pleistocene hominids, 500 000 years ago.

Butchery techniques: the opportunity to study butchery techniques and resource utilization is exceptionally rare in the Old Stone Age; where, given the extreme antiquity of sites, most material is in a derived context.

Cut marks on the bones, made by flint tools, show that carcasses were skinned, disarticulated and defleshed at the site, prior to the bones being smashed open to extract their marrow. Some of the bones and antler were subsequently modified and used as tools to work flint.

Evidence of cutmarks

The evidence uncovered by the Boxgrove Project suggests that the behavioural repertoire of these hominids was more complex than many researchers had hitherto envisaged.

The finds during the 1995 excavations included the major bones of a rhino, most of which bore impressive cutmarks. We can confidently assume that that the Boxgrove hominids were butchering mammals as large as rhinos and bears.

A bear jaw.


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http://www.ucl.ac.uk/boxgrove/arch/dates.htm

DATING BOXGROVE

There is substantial interest surrounding the age of Boxgrove. The dating method is based on mammal evolution and extinctions. This method relies on correlating changes in animal species across northern Europe, with changes in climate. Some species, particularly the bears, rhinos and small mammals, have become the chronological markers for dating sites. At Boxgrove, there is a distinctive group of mammals that occur together in a warm stage that immediately predates the Anglian glaciation. This warm period is dated to between 524,000 and 478,000 years ago.

'THE VOLE CLOCK'

One of the key species that allows us to date the site to this period is the water vole. These small rodents evolved changes that can be cross referenced and compared across sites over time. Most importantly, the teeth of the very early, pre-Boxgrove water voles have roots. Elsewhere in England and Europe, the water voles evolved so that their teeth became unrooted and continuously growing. These changes can be interpreted like divisions on a clock face, allowing us to use the 'vole clock' with confidence for the minimum age of the site at 478,000 years ago.

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THE ARCHAEOLOGY IN GEOLOGICAL CONTEXT.

The archaeology at the site consisted of scatters of lithic material in all the geological units. It is preserved best and most extensively in the Slindon Silts and the chalk scree material overlying the beach, from whence the raw material was originally obtained.

In the years before the 1995 excavations, bifaces and refitting debitage were found in the cold climate mass movement gravels from the upper levels of the excavations. The presence of archaeology at this level may suggest that early humans were able to survive in Britain throughout periods of extreme cold such as the glacial stages.

FLINT HANDAXE

A typical Boxgrove handaxe


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THE BUTCHERY AT BOXGROVE

The lithics include bifaces, end scrapers, side scrapers, transverse and notch scrapers, anvils and hammerstones.

FLINT HANDAXE

A biface

Bone and antler were also modified for use as soft hammers. Femoral shafts of giant deer were selected and the periosteum removed, the resulting implements being then used for fine flaking of flint artefacts.

All these tools appear to have been abandoned after limited immediate use.

Much of the flint debitage found in-situ can be refitted to reform its original structure.

Evidence of a flint nodule refitting

In contrast to the abandoned bifaces, a soft hammer was found in the 1995 excavations. It was made from the antler of the giant deer Megaloceros dawkinsi, exhibited significant use over a long time period, and was obviously curated. As far as the discoveries at Boxgrove go, this particular find is one of the most important, possibly being the oldest curated tool in the world.


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http://www.ucl.ac.uk/boxgrove/fauna/fauna.htm

THE FAUNA OF ANCIENT BOXGROVE.

A rhino tooth.

The fauna found at Boxgrove, at the level of the hominid finds, are consistant with a warm interglacial climate.

The list ranges from carnivores, such as the wolf (Canis lupus mosbachensis), extinct cave bear (Ursus deningeri), to large herbivores, such as horse (Equus ferus), extinct rhinocerous (Stephanorhinus hundsheimensis), two species of giant deer (Megaloceros dawkinsi & (Megaloceros cf. verticornis); small mammals, such as the mountain hare (Lepus timidus), extinct voles (Pliomys episcopalis), to fish and amphibians, such as the common frog (Rana temporaria), flounder (Platichthys flesus) and salmon (Salmonidae).

Shrew jaws

The fossilised remains of birds have also been excavated at the Boxgrove site. These include both large birds, such as the great auk (Pinguinus impennis), goose (Anser sp.) and tawny owl (Strix aluco), as well as smaller birds, like the robin (Erithacus rubella), starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and partridge (Perdix perdix).

It seems reasonable to speculate that some of these animals may have been the reason why the Boxgrove hominids originally chose the area. The excavations in 1991 uncovered most of the major bones of a horse, complete with flint cut marks, which indicated that a horse had been butchered on that spot some five hundred thousand years before.

For a complete listing of the known fauna . . . .


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THE VERTEBRATE FAUNA FROM BOXGROVE.

PISCES.

Raja clavata Thornback ray Triglidae Gurnard family
Anguilla anguilla Eel Labridae Wrasse family
Conger conger Conger eel Platichthys flesus Flounder
Apodes Moray/Conger Thunnus thynnus Blue fin tuna
Clupidae Herring family Pleuronectidae Flatfish
Salmonidae Salmon/trout

Gadus morhua Cod

GadidaeCod family Gasterosteus aculeatus3sp. stickleback

AMPHIBIA

Triturus vulgaris Palmate newt Bufo calamita Natterjack toad
Pelobates fuscus Common spadefoot Rana arvalis Moor frog
Bufo bufo Common toad Rana temporaria Common frog

REPTILIA

Anguis fragilis Slow worm
Lacerta cf. L. vivipara Viviparous lizard
Natrix natrix Grass snake

AVES

Sturnus vulgaris Starling Bucephala clangula Goldeneye
Anser anser Greylag goose Perdix perdix Partridge
Anser sp. Goose Gallinula chloropus Moorhen
Anas platyrhynchos Mallard Scolopacidae sp. Snipe/plover
Anas penelope Wigeon Larus ridibundus Blackheaded gull
Anas cf. A. querquedula Gargeny Rissa cf. R. tridactyla Kittiwake
Anas crecca Teal Pinguinus impennis Great auk
Anas sp. Dabbling duck Strix aluco Tawny owl
Aythya fuligula Tufted duck Apus apus Swift
Cygnuscf.C.cygnus Whooper swan Prunellacf.P. modularis Dunnock
Erithacus rubella Robin

MAMMALIA

Insectivora

Erinaceus sp. Hedgehog Sorex Drepanosorex savini Extinct shrew
Neomys sp. Water shrew Talpa europaea Common mole
Sorex minutus Pygmy shrew Talpa minor Extinct mole
Sorex runtonensis Extinct shrew

Chiroptera

Plecotus auritus Common longeared bat
Myotis mystacinus Whiskered bat
Myotis bechsteini Bechstein's bat

Primates

Homo cf. heidelbergensis Hominid

Carnivora

A wolf jaw.

Canis lupus mosbachensis Wolf Meles sp. Badger
Ursus deningeri Extinct bear Crocuta crocuta Spotted hyaena
Mustela erminea Stoat Felis cf. F.silvestris Wild cat
Mustela luterola European mink Panthera leo Lion
Mustela nivalis Weasel

Proboscidea

Elephantidae gen. et. sp. indet. Elephant

Perissodactyla

Equus ferus Horse Stephanorhinus hundsheimensis Rhino(ext)

Artiodactyla

Cervus elaphus Red deer Megaloceros cf. verticornisGiant deer
Dama dama Fallow deer Bison sp. Bison
Capreolus capreolus Roe deer Caprinae ovicaprid
Megaloceros dawkinsi Giant deer

Rodentia

A beaver jaw.

Sciurus sp. Squirrel Microtus arvalis Common vole
Myopus schisticolor Wood lemming Microtus agrestis Field vole
Lemmus lemmus Norway lemming Microtus oeconomus Northern vole
Clethrionomys glareolus Bank vole Castor fiber Beaver
Clethrionomys rufocanusGreysided vole Apodemus sylvaticus Wood mouse
Pliomys episcopalisExtinct vole Eliomys quercinus Garden dormouse
Arvicola terrestris cantianaWater vole Sicista cf. S.betulina Birch mouse
M. Terricola subterraneus Pine vole Apodemus maastrichtiensisExtinct mouse
M. gregalis gregaloidesNarrow skulled vole Muscardinus avellanariusHazel dormouse

Lagomorpha

Lepus timidus Mountain hare Oryctolagus cf.O.cuniculus Rabbit

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THE PEOPLE OF BOXGROVE.

THOSE PERMANENTLY ON THE SCENE.

Mark Roberts has directed research at Boxgrove, and on the Pleistocene deposits of the coastal plain since 1984. His research interests are the colonisation of Europe, Middle Pleistocene chronostratigraphy and its impact upon archaeological theory, and hominid behaviour during the Middle Pleistocene.

Mark is a member of the Arbeitsgruppe Mauer, based in Heidelberg, which is researching the chronology, palaeoenvironments and behaviour of Middle Pleistocene hominids belonging to the species Homo heidelbergensis. He is also the principle British contributor to the European Science Foundation work-shop on the earliest occupation of Europe.*

In 1994/95, he was awarded the Stopes medal for services to Quaternary geology and Palaeolithic archaeology.

Roberts, M.B., , C.S. and Bridgland, D.R. 1995. 'The chronology of the earliest occupation of the British Isles.' In W. Roebroeks and T. van Kolfschoten, eds.) The Earliest Occupation of Europe. Leiden: University of Leiden Press.

He can be contacted at mark.roberts@ucl.ac.uk


Simon Parfitt, also of UCL, is Deputy Director, and resident faunal analyst of the project.

His primary research interests include the taphonomy, palaeoecology and evolution of British mammalian fauna, particularly the early Middle Pleistocene. He is also involved in a number of collaborative research projects incorporating faunal material from multi-period archaeological sites in Britain and Europe.

He can emailed at s.parfitt@ucl.ac.uk


Matthew Pope supervised excavations between 1995 and 1997 and is a lithic specialist for the project. His current research is aimed at reconstructing hominid activity at the horse butchery site (GTP 17). He can be emailed at m.pope@ucl.ac.uk


AND OUR SPECIALISTS . . .

Excavations at Boxgrove began in 1985 and subsequently developed into a large multidisciplinary research project, utilising over forty specialists from the many disciplines that constitute Quaternary Research.

The project is run on a multidisciplinary basis to ensure that the archaeological material, which consists of flint bifacial tools, the debitage from their manufacture and butchered animal remains, are placed accurately in temporal, spatial and palaeoenvironmental context.

The work was undertaken using geological and sedimentological techniques such as structural analysis, mineralogy and micromorphology. The resulting framework was then further expanded by carrying out detailed analyses on faunal remains.

The specialists who have been consulted include:

Martin Bates (geologist) Simon Lewis (consultant geologist)
Margaret Beasley (tooth analysis) Richard MacPhail (sediment micromorphology)
Chris Bergman (lithic specialist) John Mitchell (handaxe microwear analysis)
Lorraine Cornish (conservator) Wil Roebroeks (archaeologist)
Andy Currant (faunal specialist) Philip Rye (illustrator)
Clive (archaeologist) John Stewart (palaeo-ornithology)
Alex Holmes (technical consultant) Chris Stringer (palaeo-anthropologist)
Peter Horn (isotope analysis) Erik Trinkaus (biomechanics)
Thijs van Kolfschoten (small mammal analysis) John Whittaker (ostracod analysis)
Sir Bernard Knight (pathologist) Pat Wiltshire (pollen analysis)

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WHO FUNDS THE EXCAVATIONS?

The Boxgrove Project has been, and continues to be, funded solely by English Heritage. Not only are the Boxgrove finds evidence for the very earliest people in England, but they are also among the earliest in Europe.

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WHAT YOU THINK OF OUR SITE

We have had quite a positive response from all that have seen our web pages. Thanks to all who have sent in comments and suggestions for changes and updates. We shall endeavour to continue to keep things as clear and concise as possible.


Q&A

Thanks for all your encouraging comments about our web site. We shall continue to update the web pages as things progress.

We haven't really had that many questions, but if anything puzzles or perplexes, do not hesitate to email us at the address below, and we will do our best to assist. Due to a number of people requesting references, we are adding a bibliography of some of the more important references relevant to Boxgrove.


BOXGROVE BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Boxgrove monograph is due to be published by Christmas 1997. It will be the most up-to-date, concise reference to all aspects of the Boxgrove project, with papers by all specialists.

We recommend reading The Earliest Occupation of Europe, 1995, edited by Wil Roebroeks and Thijs von Kolfschoten.

Woodcock, A. 1981. The Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Periods in Sussex. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports British Series 94.

Roberts, M.B. 1986. Excavation of the Lower Palaeolithic site in Amey's Eartham Pit, Boxgrove, West Sussex: a preliminary report. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 52: 215-245.

Fairweather Eden by Mike Pitts and Mark Roberts is a popular science about the Boxgrove excavations.

Bates, M.R., Parfitt, S.A. and Roberts, M.B. 1997. The chronology, palaeoecology and archaeological significance of the marine Quaternary record of the West Sussex Coastal Plain, Southern England, UK. Quaternary Science Reviews. 16

Bates, M.R., Gibbard, P.L., Macphail, R.I., Owen, F.J., Parfitt, S.A., Preece, R.C., Roberts, M.B., Robinson, J.E.,Whittaker, J.E. and Wilkinson, K, N. In press. Late Middle Pleistocene deposits at Norton Farm on the West Sussex Coastal Plain, Southern England. Journal of Quaternary Science.

Bergman, C.A. and Roberts, M.B. 1988. The Lower Palaeolithic site at Boxgrove, West Sussex, England. Revue Archaéologique de Picardie. 1-2 (numéro spécial): 105-114.

Bergman, C.A., Roberts, M.B., Collcutt, S.N. and Barlow, P. 1990. Refitting and spatial analysis of artefacts from Quarry 2 at the Middle Pleistocene Acheulian site of Boxgrove, West Sussex, England. In The Big Puzzle (eds E. Cziesla, S. Eickhoff, N. Arts and D. Winter). Bonn: Holos. 265-282.

Macphail, R. I. 1996. The soil micromorphological reconstruction of the 500,000 year old hominid environment at Boxgrove, West Sussex, UK. In (L. Castelletti & M. Cremaschi, Eds.). The XIII International Congress of Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences, Volume III. Forlì - Italia. Paleoecology, Colloqium VI. Micromorphology of Deposits of Anthropological origin, pp. 133-142.

Mitchell, J.C. 1997. Quantitative image analysis of lithic microwear on flint handaxes. Microscopy and analysis. 61: 15-17.

Roberts, M.B. 1990. Amey’s Eartham Pit, Boxgrove. In, The Cromer Symposium, Norwich 1990. Field excursion guide (ed C. Turner). Cambridge. 62-67.

Roberts, M.B. 1994. How old is Boxgrove Man? Reply to Bowen and Sykes. Nature 371: 751

Roberts, M.B. 1996. The age and significance of the Middle Pleistocene sediments at Boxgrove, West Sussex, UK and their associated archaeology. In Neue Funde und Forschungen zur frühen Menschheitsgeschichte Eurasiens mit einem Ausblick auf Afrika. (K.W. Beinhauer, R. Kraatz and G.A. Wagner eds.). Sigmaringen: Jan Thorbecke Verlag GmbH and Co.

Roberts, M.B., Stringer, C.B. and Parfitt, S.A. 1994. A hominid tibia from Middle Pleistocene sediments at Boxgrove, UK. Nature. 369: 311-313.

Roberts, M.B., Gamble, C.S. and Bridgland, D.R. 1995. The earliest occupation of Europe: The British Isles. In The Earliest Occupation of Europe (W. Roebroeks and T. van Kolfschoten eds.). Leiden: University of Leiden. 165-92.

Roberts, M.B., Parfitt, S.A., Pope, M.I. and Wenban Smith, F.F. 1997. Boxgrove, West Sussex: Rescue excavations of a Lower Palaeolithic landsurface (Boxgrove Project B 1989-1991). Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society. 63: 303-358.

Roberts, M.B. & Parfitt, S.A. In press. The Middle Pleistocene Hominid Site at A.R.C. Eartham Quarry, Boxgrove, West Sussex, UK. English Heritage Archaeological Report. London: English Heritage.

Stringer, C.B., Trinkaus, E., Roberts, M.B.,Parfitt, S.A. and Macphail, R.I. In press. The Middle Pleistocene human tibia from Boxgrove. Journal of Human Evolution.

Wenban-Smith, F.F. 1989. The use of canonical variates for determination of biface manufacturing technology at Boxgrove Lower Palaeolithic site and the behavioural implications of this technology. Journal of Archaeological Science. 16(1): 17-26.


Also we recommend visiting this new website: Archaeology: an Introduction - an 'electronic companion' at

http://www.ncl.ac.uk/~nktg/wintro/


As 1996 was the final year excavating at Boxgrove, we produced a number of items ("memorabilia") which we hope will allow our site to be part of people's memories for a long time. These include a variety of coloured t-shirts celebrating our hominid finds, full colour, informative guidebooks, and postcards.

BOXGROVE GUIDE

Please keep in touch, by emailing Boxgrove-www@ucl.ac.uk. .


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