Humans have probably been in Europe for over a million years, but until recently it was believed that they only colonised northern Europe in the last 500,000 years. Until recently it was also generally believed that the Pleistocene human occupation of Britain was near continuous from at least 400,000 years ago. However, new research suggests that instead, there were repeated colonization events, followed by local extinctions, and recolonisations.
The unique palaeogeographic position of Britain meant that periods of low sea level with the maximum extent of land connection with continental Europe were also the least hospitable due to climatic deterioration, while the establishment of the English Channel during the Middle Pleistocene meant that at times of climatic optima, Britain became an island, isolating existing inhabitants, or preventing the arrival of new ones.
Chris reveals what the latest techniques are telling us about early life on these islands.