There was a time when Great Britain was not an island, it was attached to the continent and was a peninsula like the Iberian Peninsula is with respect to the Eurasian continent.
Britain's separation from the European continent occurred during the Mesolithic, when a large strip of land connected Britain with Denmark, northern Germany, and the Netherlands that archaeologists, geologists, historians, and geographers call Doggerland, and is now under water, being a territory rich in fauna and flora and that was populated by Mesolithic cultures. It was populated by prehistoric humans who made footwear and made tools out of flint.
At the time, the English Channel was dry, and according to scientists, it rose towards a rocky ridge that linked the island to the mainland through what is now known as the Strait of Dover.
Great Britain was inhabited for thousands of years and what is known about its first inhabitants and their culture is due to archeology, because as far as it is known, they did not use writing.
The British Paleolithic can be established between 750,000 and 10,000 BC. During this long period, many environmental changes occurred, among which the alternation between glaciations and interglacial periods stands out. The inhabitants were hunter-gatherers who followed the animals through northern Europe.
Bones and silica tools recovered from coastal areas near Happisburgh, Norfolk, Pakefield, and Suffolk, demonstrated how Homo erectus was present in Britain around 700,000 BC. At that time, the southern and eastern parts of the territory were linked to present-day continental Europe by a long land bridge, allowing human groups to move freely from one side to the other. A great river crossed the present English Channel, that went towards the west and was fed by the present Thames and the Seine.
This reconstruction has made it possible to follow the first routes followed by the Eurasian inhabitants to reach Great Britain by following the course of that river, which has been called Bytham.
Archaeological sites such as Boxgrove and Sussex attest to the successive arrival of Homo heidelbergensis, some 500,000 years ago. This human species produced Acheulean silica artifacts and hunted the large mammals of the time, such as elephants, rhinos, and hippos.
Successive ice ages likely forced people to migrate, but in the interglacial period known as the Hoxian, 420,000 to 360,000 years ago, Britain was populated by clactonian instrument makers, such as those found at Barnfield Pit in Kent.
During the subsequent period of intense cold, about 240,000 years ago, levallois carving technology was introduced, which may have come from Africa, although instrument finds at Swanscombe and Botany Pit support the hypothesis that this technology may have originated in Europe and it was very important for the permanence of man in cold areas during the Ice Age. There is still little evidence of human occupation during the following interglacial period, called the Ipswichian in Britain, as it appears that the ice took longer to melt than on the mainland, which explains the low human presence. Overall, the reduction in archaeological remains suggests that there was a gradual demographic decline between the Interglacial Hoxnian and the Ipswichian.
About 230,000 years ago, Homo neanderthalensis arrived in present-day Britain and replaced Homo heidelbergensis. Evidence of Neanderthal production of silica tools has been found in the Kent area of southern England.
Homo sapiens first appeared in Britain 30,000 years ago and they were also originally hunter-gatherers, remained until the arrival of the last ice age, and then left the island uninhabited for a long period.
Some of Britain's earliest modern settlers 10,000 years ago had dark skin and curly hair, according to a new analysis of a historical skeleton.
The Cheddar man fossil from a British village was discovered in 1903 in a cave in the town of Cheddar in Somerset, south-west England. It's the oldest complete skeleton ever discovered in Britain and would have been part of the last wave of immigrants to populate the region after the Ice Age.
Today's white British can trace their roots back to the descendants of these people, and the Cheddar man was originally believed to have fair hair and skin. Now, after state-of-the-art DNA analysis and facial reconstruction by a team of scientists, she is believed to have blue eyes, dark to black skin, and dark curly hair.
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