Early hominins in north-west Europe: a punctuated long chronology?

Robert Hosfield, James Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In light of changing views regarding the identity and evolutionary positions of Europe’s Lower Palaeolithic hominins, a re-consideration of the hominin occupation of North-West Europe from c. 1 million years ago (mya) to c. 400 thousand years ago (kya) is timely. A change in the scale and character of the overall European Palaeolithic record around c. 800-600 kya has been well documented and argued over since the mid-1990s. Hominin expansion into the European north-west, potentially from southern Europe, Africa or south-western Asia, has been linked to the introduction of a new lithic technology in the form of the biface. We evaluate three potential drivers for this northern range expansion: changing palaeo-climatic conditions, the emergence of an essentially modern human life history, and greater hominin behavioural plasticity. Our evaluation suggests no major changes in these three factors during the c. 800-600 kya period other than enhanced behavioural plasticity suggested by the appearance of the biface. We offer here a model of hominin occupation for north-west Europe termed the ‘punctuated long chronology’ and suggest that the major changes in the European Lower Palaeolithic record that occur at a species wide level may post-date, rather than precede, the Anglian Glaciation (marine isotope stage (MIS) 12).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-160
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • Lower Palaeolithic
  • Middle Pleistocene
  • Europe
  • punctuated long chronology
  • life history
  • behavioural plasticity
  • palaeoenvironment


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