Fossils from Happisburgh
Preserved in waterlogged clay, silt and gravel, a stunning array of plants, mammals and insects makes the fossil beds at Happisburgh among the most impressive from any Early Palaeolithic site in the world. The richness of the finds brings the environment of this place, at this time, to life.
One of the most complete elephant teeth yet found at the site, this was unearthed from a gravel layer. With large grinding-teeth designed for feeding on shrubs and trees, the ancestral mammoth (Mammuthus cf. meridionalis) was one of the large herbivores sustained by the rich vegetation growing along the banks of the early river Thames. Fully grown, the ancestral mammoth would have towered over its closest living relative, the Asian elephant.
This pine cone (3.5 cm long) is a testament to the astounding level of organic material preservation at the site.
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and spruce (Picea) have both been identified from relatively common pine cones and microscopic examination of wood. Other plant remains range in size from tree trunks to pollen grains.
Tooth and jaw fragment of an elk
Jaw of a beaver-like rodent
Toe bone of a horse
Dropping (coprolite) of a hyaena
Bone-eating hyaenas can digest bones and teeth, passing mineral-rich droppings, such as this example from Happisburgh Site 3. The large size of the Happisburgh coprolite suggests that it may have come from the now extinct gigantic short-skulled hyaena (Pachycrocuta brevirostris).