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British prehistory timeline



800,000 – human footprints of Homo antecessor found at Hazeborough, Norfolk
500,000 – remains of Homo heidelbergensis found in Sussex
c. 500-300,000 – man-made flint hand axes and the bones of rhino, mammoth, sabre-toothed, tiger and hyena
230,000 – remains of Homo neanderthalensis found in Wales
45,000 – maxilla of Homo sapiens found in Kent’s Cavern, Torquay, Devon, the oldest modern human fossil found in northwest Europe (then united) in the region now called Britain
c. 25,000 – Ice Age covers Britain with ice sheet
20,000-15,000 – Last Glacial Maximum with coldest period around 16,000 BCE
13,000-10,000 – hunter-gatherers return with the warming of the climate
14,500-9800 – Natufian semi-settled culture with domestic forms of the rat, mouse, sparrow and dog. Use of sickles to harvest wild cereals
12,700 to 10,800 BCE – Warm Period
10,800 to 9,600 BCE – Younger Dryas
9,600 to 6,500 BCE – Mesolithic wave of migrants enter the British Isles from northern Spain (the Franco-Iberian Basque refuge) by following a Atlantic coastal route past Brittany.
7150 BCE – Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, Cheddar Man, found in Gough’s Cave in Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, excavated in 1903, and now held in London’s Natural History Museum.
10,800-9600 – Younger Dryas – the last period of cold and dry conditions following the last Ice Age
8000-5000 – farming becomes widespread across Europe
9600-6500 – wave of migrants enter the British Isles from northern Spain, a Franco-Iberian Basque refuge, following a ‘beachcombing’ coastal route along the Atlantic coast of France past Brittany.
9500 – formation of the Irish Sea
7150 – Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton, Cheddar Man, found in Gough’s Cave, Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, excavated in 1903
6500-6000 – land bridge with Europe inundated to form the English Channel and North Sea
5000-3500 – first pottery, polished flint, and polished stone tools –
4200-3500 – BRITISH NEOLITHIC REVOLUTION – based on the cereals barley and emmer wheat with the domesticated livestock of cattle, pigs and sheep. Large-scale transport of stock and clearing of land as hunting and gathering, especially that based on coastal seafood, were replaced by settled communities eating grain and animal protein. Building of timber huts, the use of pottery and more refined tools. Communities now mined flint, built monuments, barrows, ditches and mounded enclosures. West Kennet Long Barrow, is one of many Wiltshire archaeological sites connected by ley lines: it was commenced about 3600 BCE some 400 years before Stonehenge, the entrance finally sealed with rocks in about 2500 BCE.
c. 3000 – Stonehenge phase 1 circular monument
c. 2500 – Stonehenge phase 2 – sarsen and bluestones added
1800-1500 – Stonehenge phase 3 – two concentric pit rings
1250-750 – first use of iron
450 – ironwork now widespread
c. 1000the Icelandic volcano Mt Hekla erupted (Hekla 3, or H3) the atmospheric volcanic ash cooling northern parts of the globe for several years. Traces of this eruption are found in Scottish peat bogs, and in Ireland a study of tree rings dating from this period has shown negligible tree ring growth for a decade.
200 – population of Britain and Ireland about 2 million
150 – wheel-made pottery


43 – Romans defeat Britons at Battle of Medway
60 – Boadicea resists
69– Vespasian reinforces Roman garrisons
120 – Londinium created capital
128 – completion of Hadrian’s Wall
208-211 – Septimus Severus pushes beyond Hadrian’s Wall
410-411 – Roman garrisons withdraw

First published on the internet – 1 March 2019

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