World-famous photo reveals Norwich’s ‘lost tribe’

PUBLISHED: 09:35 01 April 2014 | UPDATED: 12:35 01 April 2014

The photo of the double decker in the hole on Earlham Road became famous - but who noticed the other surprise it had in store?

The photo of the double decker in the hole on Earlham Road became famous - but who noticed the other surprise it had in store?


It’s a haunting face from the past which experts claim could be further evidence that a “lost tribe” once lived – or maybe continues to live – under the ground in Norwich.

The photo of the double decker in the hole on Earlham Road became famous - but who noticed the other surprise it had in store?The photo of the double decker in the hole on Earlham Road became famous - but who noticed the other surprise it had in store?

The image, which appears to show a distinctly prehistoric figure peering into the street from the cavernous hole, was discovered as the Evening News examined old pictures of the famous Norwich “bus swallowing” incident ahead of the 26th anniversary of the spectacle at the beginning of March.

Steve Adams, Archant’s picture editor, explained: “Dozens of photographs were taken of the bus in the hole in 1988 but we chose the most iconic for publication and it has been reproduced countless thousands of times across the world.

“We were looking at some of the pictures that didn’t appear in the paper and suddenly realised there was clearly a figure appearing from the hole.

“When we enlarged the image, it swiftly became clear that we definitely weren’t dealing with one of the workmen tasked to investigate what had happened.

Lost tribe may be one of many

NASA has photographed almost every inch of the world and the US military has mapped it out to the last hillock but Survival International, which campaigns on behalf of tribal peoples, believes there are still around 70 lost tribes.

‘Lost tribes’ are generally typified by groups of people who have no sustained contact with mainstream society.

The Beothuk tribe of Newfoundland lived amongst settlers but refused to interact, smashed anything ‘modern’ that they found and in the 
1820s eventually became extinct.

The Ache tribe in Paraguay has resisted all interaction with the outside world for centuries. Former cannibals, they were still fighting with stone axes in the 1960s.

Modern societies have always been fascinated by the concept of ‘lost tribes’ – King Henry VIII kept a few ‘savages’ at court, as did the Medicis.

“We were initially baffled, but further research has shown that what we might have unearthed is evidence of a cover-up which has never been publicised before.”

Anthropologists believe that the photograph backs up earlier claims that a hitherto unknown tribe lived below the ground in the city in the abandoned chalk mines beneath Norwich – and they say the tribe may still be living beneath the ground, surfacing only occasionally in order to hunt and seek sunlight.

On Thursday, March 3, 1988, a number 26 bus fell into a 26ft hole that opened up on Earlham Road in Norwich.

The double decker had been swallowed when the road collapsed into a chalk mine which dated back to the 11th century when chalk was extensively mined in Norwich.

Mining tunnels, which can be found between 12 and 90 feet below the surface are known to exist all around medieval Norwich and its outskirts – most have been blocked for safety reasons and all are closed to the public.

Dr Neil Andertall is a locally based anthropologist who has studied the image and evidence given to him after an investigation by the Norwich Evening News.

“I believe that what we are seeing is a man, but not a modern-day man, a man who more resembles one of the ancient races of humans such as the Homo antecessor or Homo erectus species. History has always been hidden beneath our feet: we just didn’t realise we should take that phrase so literally.

“It makes sense: recent discoveries in Happisburgh indicate that early humans created their first settlement in the UK on the north Norfolk 

“We can only assume that the ‘lost tribe’ underneath Norwich have some way of reaching the surface in order to find food and enjoy the benefits of sunlight.

“Additionally, other mammals, such as moles, have evolved to produce and circulate a larger amount of blood and oxygen-rich haemoglobin in order to thrive underground and there is nothing to say that the Norwich tribe hasn’t followed suit.”

Little is known about Homo antecessor, but it is believed they were the first Britons and sported a stronger browline and bigger teeth than modern humans, measured around 5ft 6in to 6ft tall, weighed between nine and 14 stone and were believed to be predominantly right-handed.

Over the decades, numerous reports have been received of “caveman” type figures being spotted in Norwich, but the Evening News has never been able to obtain any definitive evidence of a “lost tribe” living beneath our feet.

Our photograph appears to tell a different story.

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