Boxgrove in Sussex, England, is an iconic, old stone age site. This is where the oldest human remains in Britain have been discovered – fossils of Homo heidelbergensis. Part of an exceptionally preserved 26km-wide ancient landscape of stone, it provides a virtually untouched record of early humans almost half a million years ago.
New discoveries and new methods in paleoanthropology are helping to refine the human story. Just 20 years ago, no one could have imagined what scientists now know about humanity’s deep past, let alone how much knowledge could be extracted from a thimble of dirt, a scrape of dental plaque, or satellites in space.
Human beings used to be defined as “the tool-maker” species. But the uniqueness of this description was challenged in the 1960s when Dr. Jane Goodall discovered that chimpanzees will pick and modify grass stems to use to collect termites. Her observations called into question homo sapiens‘ very place in the world. Since then scientists’ knowledge of animal tool use has expanded exponentially.