West Runton Beach

Top Ten Facts about the Deep History Coast

North Norfolk's Deep History Coast is steeped in history dating back hundreds of thousands of years. Each find tells a fascinating story about how north Norfolk looked and what lived here. Here's our top ten facts about the Deep History Coast.


The North Sea didn't exist off the Norfolk coast 12,000 years ago. Instead the land (Doggerland) stretched all the way from the British east coast to what is now Germany and the Netherlands. Doggerland was an area the size of Wales.
Footprints revealed by the tide at Happisburgh indicated a group of people walked along estuary mudflats between 850,000 and 950,000 years ago, providing the first suggestion of the body size of the earliest humans in northern Europe. Measurements of the footprints showed the heights varied from about 0.9m to over 1.7m.
Happisburgh Footprints
Giant deer roamed across the landscape around 400,000 years ago. Over two metres (7ft) tall at the shoulder, they had antlers that measured up to 3.6m (12ft) from tip to tip – that's as wide as an average room in a house.
Giant Deer
Standing at least four metres at its shoulder, the West Runton mammoth would have weighed about ten tonnes – twice the weight of any African Elephant. The elephant skeleton discovered at West Runton is the largest ever found in Britain and is the oldest to have been found in the UK. The West Runton Mammoth’s tusks were 2.5m (9ft) long – that’s as long as an average car.
West Runton Mammoth
You can often find fossils of sea urchins on the beach at West Runton that are over 90 million years old. It's not only bones and teeth that can be fossilised. Some of the fossils found around the West Runton mammoth turned out to be ancient hyaena poo.
Just offshore, between Sheringham and Cromer, is the largest chalk reef in Europe and the longest in the world, formed during the Ice Age. At more than 20 miles long, it lies in the shallows, just 25ft from the surface and is part of a chalk stream that reaches as far as the white cliffs of Dover and the White Horse Hill Carvings in Wiltshire. It provides a feeding ground for the famous Cromer crab.
Chalk Reef

Finds on the Deep History Coast provided the earliest evidence for human occupation so far discovered in northern Europe. They place early humans here in Norfolk some 350,000 years earlier than had been thought, at over 850,000 years ago.


Palaeontologists found more than 100 different species of beetles during an excavation of the Cromer Forest Bed.
Cromer Forest Bed
Norfolk is the only region in northern Europe to have evidence of four human species living at different times in the past: Homo sapiens, Modern Humans; Homo neanderthalensis, Neanderthals; Homo heidelbergensis, Heidelberg ‘Man’; Homo antecessor, Pioneer ‘Man’.
Homo Antecessor
The Happisburgh hand axe was made by our relatives known as Heidelberg ‘Man (Homo heidelbergensis) and dates from around 500,000 years ago making it amongst one of the oldest hand axes ever found in Britain.
Happisburgh Hand Axe