The Palaeolithic period (500,000 BC to 10,000 BC) covers multiple glacial periods, the most recent ending c. 12 ka BP (kilo-annums Before Present) and is the longest period of human prehistory. Hominins were present in the East of England, in areas like Happisburgh and Pakefield, from 800 ka BP, before the comparatively brief Mesolithic period (10,000 BC to 4000 BC).
Ipswich is located in a valley at the edge of the Doggerland plain, which is now beneath the North Sea. The landscape was varied, with topography that might have been beneficial to Palaeolithic human and pre-modern human species. Palaeolithic material elsewhere in Britain is generally uncovered in isolated, unstratified find spots. Yet, in Ipswich, the varied geological deposits have yielded a wealth of Palaeolithic material, including some stratified sites. Mineral extraction undertaken in the region in the early 20th century also uncovered some Palaeolithic assemblages of national importance.
Image: All known Palaeolithic sites and findspots (left) and known Mesolithic sites (right) in the borough of Ipswich
At Foxhall Road in Ipswich, Palaeolithic deposits lie within a shallow dry valley, dated by its dry lake deposits to the Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11 age (c.416-434 ka BP). The deposit included several stone tool assemblages, the most important of which was a full (albeit spatially reorganised) handaxe chaîne opératoire (tool creation sequence).
Mesolithic occupation is sparser in Ipswich compared to Palaeolithic evidence, and less well-recorded as either unstratified or residual finds. Finds of tranchet axes have been reported from the shore of the River Orwell (IPS 001) and elsewhere (IPS 005, IPS 105). Various cores and implements (e.g. IPS 1008) have also been found throughout the borough.