Europe’s Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland

New CBA book highlights the plight of those driven from a lost land.

Europe’s Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland Stereo viewing of seismic data at the VISTA laboratory Europe’s Lost World: The Rediscovery of Doggerland
Vincent Gaffney, Simon Fitch and David Smith
CBA Research Report 160, ISBN: 978-1-902771-77-9
232pp, 125 full colour illus, March 2009 (reprinted 2013), Price £25 GBP

The past is sometimes said to be a foreign country, but less than 12,000 years ago Europe was a very different and almost unrecognisable place where Britain did not exist as a separate land. Over several thousand years the climate changed, sea levels rose and the entire coast of Europe morphed into the familiar shape we know today. Britain, formerly a range of hills on the edge of a great plain, gradually separated from continental Europe. This new book concludes a remarkable programme of archaeological research by the University of Birmingham to rediscover Doggerland, the enigmatic country which once linked the Yorkshire coast with a stretch of Continental Europe from Denmark to Normandy but which now lies beneath the North Sea.

Whilst many may associate Doggerland with the area of sea described memorably each night in the BBC Shipping Forecast, 10,000 years ago Doggerland was an inhabited land where communities of hunter-gatherers lived and roamed, hunting and gathering resources, just as they did in many other areas of northern Europe. Previously interpreted by archaeologists simply as a ‘land bridge’, this project has described this amazing landscape in detail for the first time and revealed the valleys, hills, rivers and plains which lie beneath the North sea and which were home to unique cultures, tribes and, perhaps, thousands of people.

This book, published today by the CBA, also documents the terrible events which brought an end to this landscape. Sometimes slowly, but sometimes with a rapidity which brings to mind Noah’s Flood, sea levels rose due to a rise in temperature and melting glaciers. Doggerland was drowned, its people lost or driven to higher ground.

Does this scenario sound familiar? The project accurately reconstructs the story for us, the tragic conclusions of which cast a chilling light on our situation today. With another potentially catastrophic climate change event looming, there is a real possibility that we will lose more land to the North Sea. The submersion of Doggerland was the last time this happened, and reminds us of our obligations to future generations who may lose the plains, valleys and rivers familiar to our land surface today if global warming is not arrested.

The project team, headed by Professor Vince Gaffney, a specialist in landscape archaeology at the University of Birmingham, conducted the research using ground-breaking oil industry technology and 3D seismic reflection data, donated by PGS Ltd, to scan the seabed. Using millions of data points across 23,000km² of the sea bed, a reconstruction was created of the old land surface, now submerged beneath metres of marine sediment and tens of metres of sea water.

Professor Vince Gaffney holds the Chair in Landscape Archaeology and Geomatics in the Institute for Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham where he is also Director of VISTA, the IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre.

Simon Fitch works for VISTA and maintains an active interest in the use of visual and immersive technologies in the investigation of marine geophysical data, and has been an external advisor to geophysical software companies.

Dr David Smith is an environmental archaeologist at the University of Birmingham with over 15 years’ experience providing archaeoentomological consultancy to rescue and research excavations in the British Isles.

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