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Early humans migrating out of Africa adapted to freezing climes more than 800,000 years ago, far sooner than previously thought possible, according to a landmark study released Wednesday.

A trove of flint tools found near Happisburgh in the eastern English county of Norfolk marks Homo sapiens' earliest known settlement in a location where winter temperatures fell below zero degrees Celsius (minus 32 degrees Fahrenheit).

The discovery implies our ancestors some 26,000 generations ago survived climates like those of southern Sweden today, perhaps without the comforting benefit of fire or clothes, the study says.

Until now, almost every archaeological site testifying to habitation across Eurasia during the Early Pleistocene period, 1.8 million to 780,000 years ago, has been below the 45th parallel, suggesting a natural temperature barrier to further northward expansion.

All these sites were either tropical, savanna or Mediterranean in character. The climate boundary cut across southern France and northern Italy, Romania, southern Kazakhstan and Mongolia, as well as northeastern China and the northern tip of Hokkaido Island in Japan.

The only known exception -- a site at Pakefield in Suffolk, southern England -- was occupied by humans during a balmy interlude. But the new research, led by Nick Ashton of the British Museum, has thrown down a challenge to the 45th-parallel rule. It has shown for the first time that our hardy forebears, armed with a few stone tools or weapons, could survive in a challenging, frigid environment.

Source: Discovery Channel
Image source: Daily Mail

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