Timeline of prehistoric Britain

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Trilithon at Stonehenge.jpg Timeline of prehistoric Britain Trilithon at Stonehenge.jpg
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Prehistory | 1st century

Events from the prehistory of Britain (to 1 BC).


  • This timeline focuses on species of Homo and covers the Pleistocene from the first evidence of humans.
  • The names used for glaciations and interglacials are those with historic usage for Britain and may not reflect the full climate detail of modern studies.
  • Dates for the Paleolithic are given as Before Present (BP), which uses 1 January 1950 as the commencement date of the age scale. All later dates are given as Before Christ (BC), which uses the conventional Gregorian calendar with AD 1 as the commencement date of the age scale.



A selection of stone tools from Eartham Pit, Boxgrove
  • 970,000 to 936,000 BP
  • 700,000 BP
  • 500,000 BP
  • 478,000 BP
    • Anglian Glaciation begins - the most extreme glaciation in the Pleistocene. Britain almost completely under ice.
  • 450,000 BP
  • 425,000 BP
    • Hoxnian Interglacial begins as the Anglian glaciation ends.
  • 400,000 BP
  • 352,000 BP
    • Wolstonian Glaciation begins. Neanderthal occupation intermittent.
  • 180,000 BP
    • Neanderthals completely driven out. There will be no human occupation of any kind for many thousands of years.
  • 160,000 BP
  • 130,000 BP
  • 125,000 BP
    • Rising sea-levels cut Britain off completely from the continent. It is warm enough for hippos in the Thames and lions on the site of Trafalgar Square, but Neanderthals did not cross the landbridge in time so there are no Homo sp. present.[11]
  • 115,000 BP
    • Devensian Glaciation ('Last Glacial Period') begins.
  • 60,000 BP
    • Sea levels have dropped sufficiently for Neanderthals to return to Britain in the warmer periods, possibly only as summer visitors.[11]
  • 44,000-41,000 BP
  • 40,000 BP
    • Neanderthals go extinct across Europe.
  • 26,000-13,000 BP
    • Dimlington stadial[14] ('Last Glacial Maximum'). Britain almost entirely under ice. Southern England a polar desert. Humans driven out.
  • 16,500-14,670 BP
    • Windermere interstadial[15] (the 'Allerød oscillation' or 'Late Glacial Interstadial'). Temperatures rise. Homo sapiens returns to Britain.
  • 12,890-11,700 BP
    • Loch Lomond stadial[16] ('Younger Dryas'). Temperatures drop rapidly. Humans driven out.
  • 11,700 BP
    • The Holocene warming begins as the end of the Younger Dryas stadial ends the Pleistocene. The first Mesolithic people arrived and this marks the start of continuous human (Homo sapiens only) occupation.


The upper body of the Cheddar Man a Mesolithic skeleton.
  • c. 9335–9275 BC
    • The earliest date for structures and artefacts at Star Carr, Yorkshire, a site then inhabited for around 800 years.[17]
  • c. 7600 BC
    • Howick house, Northumberland, a Mesolithic building with stone tools, nut shells and bone fragments.
  • c. 7150 BC
    • Cheddar Man, the oldest complete human skeleton in Britain
  • c. 6500-6200 BC
    • Rising sea-levels cause the flooding of Doggerland. The culminating tsunami caused by the Storegga Slide, cuts Great Britain off from the continent.
  • c. 6000 BC
    • The earliest evidence of some form of agriculture: Wheat of a variety grown in the Middle East was present on the Isle of Wight.[18]
  • c. 4600-3065 BC
    • Date range of artefacts from a Mesolithic midden on Oronsay, Inner Hebrides, giving evidence of diet.


Stonehenge2007 07 30.jpg
Stonehenge, a neolithic stone monument constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC.

Bronze Age[edit]

The Uffington White Horse, a Bronze Age hill figure.

Iron Age[edit]

Old Oswestry Hillfort (aerial).jpg
Old Oswestry, an Iron Age hillfort

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miriam Frankel. "Early Britons could cope with cold : Nature News". Nature.com. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
  2. ^ Parfitt, Simon A.; Ashton, Nick M.; Lewis, Simon G.; Abel, Richard L.; Coope, G. Russell; Field, Mike H.; Gale, Rowena; Hoare, Peter G.; Larkin, Nigel R.; Lewis, Mark D.; Karloukovski, Vassil; Maher, Barbara A.; Peglar, Sylvia M.; Preece, Richard C.; Whittaker, John E.; Stringer, Chris B. (2010). "Early Pleistocene human occupation at the edge of the boreal zone in northwest Europe". Nature. 466 (7303): 229–233. Bibcode:2010Natur.466..229P. doi:10.1038/nature09117. PMID 20613840.
  3. ^ Parfitt.S et al (2005) 'The earliest record of human activity in northern Europe', Nature 438 pp.1008-1012, 2005-12-15. Retrieved 2011-04-16.
  4. ^ Roebroeks.W (2005) 'Archaeology: life on the Costa del Cromer', Nature 438 pp.921-922, 2005-12-15. Retrieved 2011-04-16.
  5. ^ Parfitt.S et al (2006) '700,000 years old: found in Pakefield', British Archaeology, January/February 2006. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
  6. ^ Good. C & Plouviez. J (2007) The Archaeology of the Suffolk Coast Archived 8 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service [online]. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
  7. ^ Tools unlock secrets of early man, BBC news website, 2005-12-14. Retrieved 2011-04-15.
  8. ^ "500000 BC - Boxgrove". Current Archaeology. 24 May 2007. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  9. ^ a b Gupta, Sanjeev; Jenny S. Collier; Andy Palmer-Felgate; Graeme Potter (2007). "Catastrophic flooding origin of shelf valley systems in the English Channel". Nature. 448 (7151): 342–345. Bibcode:2007Natur.448..342G. doi:10.1038/nature06018. PMID 17637667. Lay summaryNBC News (2007-07-18).
  10. ^ Hendry, Lisa (15 December 2017). "First Britons". Natural History Museum. Archived from the original on 4 August 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  11. ^ a b Greenhalgh, Tate; Hendry, Lisa. "The making of an island". Natural History Museum. Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  12. ^ Higham, T; Compton, T; Stringer, C; Jacobi, R; Shapiro, B; Trinkaus, E; Chandler, B; Groening, F; Collins, C; Hillson, S; O'Higgins, P; FitzGerald, C; Fagan, M (2011), "The earliest evidence for anatomically modern humans in northwestern Europe", Nature, 479 (7374): 521–524, Bibcode:2011Natur.479..521H, doi:10.1038/nature10484, PMID 22048314
  13. ^ "Fossil Teeth Put Humans in Europe Earlier Than Thought". The New York Times. 2 November 2011.
  14. ^ Rose, James (1985). "The Dimlington Stadial Dimlington Chronozone – A proposal for naming the main glacial episode of the Late Devensian in Britain". Boreas. 14: 225–230.
  15. ^ Pennington, W. (1977). "The Late Devensian flora and vegetation of Britain". Biological Sciences. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Series B. 280: 247–271.
  16. ^ Gray, J.M.; Lowe, J.J. (1977). "The Scottish Lateglacial Environment: a synthesis.". In Gray, J.M.; Lowe, J.J. (eds.). Studies in the Scottish Late-GlacialEnvironment. Oxford: Pergammon Press. pp. 163–181.
  17. ^ Milner, Nicky; Conneller, Chantal; Taylor, Barry, eds. (2018). Star Carr: Volume 1: A Persistent Place in a Changing World. York: White Rose University Press. ISBN 978-1-912482-04-7.
  18. ^ Balter, Michael. "DNA recovered from underwater British site may rewrite history of farming in Europe". Science. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Palmer, Alan & Veronica (1992). The Chronology of British History. London: Century Ltd. pp. 13–16. ISBN 0-7126-5616-2.
  20. ^ Bondevik, Stein; Mangerud, Jan; Dawson, Sue; Dawson, Alastair; Lohne, Øystein (1 August 2005). "Evidence for three North Sea tsunamis at the Shetland Islands between 8000 and 1500 years ago". Quaternary Science Reviews. 24 (14): 1757–1775. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2004.10.018. ISSN 0277-3791.
  21. ^ Olalde, Iñigo; et al. (2017). "The Beaker Phenomenon And The Genomic Transformation Of Northwest Europe". bioRxiv 135962.