The sea on line dating
As the world warmed and the ice receded, deer, aurochs, and wild boar headed northward and westward. Coming off the uplands of what is now continental Europe, they found themselves in a vast, low-lying plain.
The evidence started to surface a century and a half ago, when fishermen along the Dutch coast widely adopted a technique called beam trawling.Once thought of as a largely uninhabited land bridge between modern-day continental Europe and Britain—a place on the way to somewhere else—Doggerland is now believed to have been settled by Mesolithic people, probably in large numbers, until they were forced out of it thousands of years later by the relentlessly rising sea.A period of climatic and social upheaval ensued until, by the end of the Mesolithic, Europe had lost a substantial portion of its landmass and looked much as it does today.In the climate of the day—perhaps a couple of degrees warmer than today—the contours on his screen translate into gently rolling hills, wooded valleys, lush marshes, and lagoons. The publication in 2007 of the initial section of this map allowed archaeologists for the first time to “see” the Mesolithic world, even identify likely locations for settlements, with a view to potentially excavating them.The expense of underwater archaeology and the poor visibility in the North Sea have kept those settlements tantalizingly out of reach, at least for now.In the 1970s and 1980s a site called Tybrind Vig, a few hundred yards off the coast of a Danish island in the Baltic Sea, yielded evidence of a surprisingly advanced late Mesolithic fishing culture, including finely decorated canoe paddles and several long, thin canoes, one of them over 30 feet long.
More recently, Harald Lübke, of the Centre for Baltic and Scandinavian Archaeology in Schleswig, Germany, and his colleagues have excavated a series of underwater settlements in Wismar Bay, on the German Baltic coast, dating between 8,800 and 5,500 years ago.
Based on seismic survey data gathered mostly by oil companies prospecting under the North Sea, Gaffney and his colleagues have digitally reconstructed nearly 18,000 square miles of the submerged landscape—an area larger than the Netherlands.
At the university’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, which he heads, Gaffney projects images of this terra incognita onto huge, full-color screens.
Many have come to see Doggerland as the key to understanding the Mesolithic in northern Europe, and the Mesolithic, in turn, as a period that holds lessons for us—living as we are through another period of climate change.
Thanks to a team of landscape archaeologists at the University of Birmingham led by Vince Gaffney, we now have a good idea of what this lost country looked like.
“The site or sites must have been close to a river system,” he says.