A vast underwater area in the North Sea may once have been home to tens of thousands of Stone Age people before suffering a devastating tsunami and gradually disappearing under rising sea levels, according to 15 years of research by U.K. scientists.
Named Doggerland, the region stretched from Northern Scotland to Denmark and down toward the Channel Islands. It slowly became submerged between 18,000 and 5,500 B.C., separating Britain from the rest of Europe.
“Doggerland was the real heartland of Europe until sea levels rose to give us the U.K. coastline of today,” said geophysicist Richard Bates at the University of St. Andrews in a statement.
“We have speculated for years on the lost land’s existence from bones dredged by fishermen all over the North Sea, but it’s only since working with oil companies in the last few years that we have been able to recreate what this lost land looked like.”
The scientists reconstructed a huge and complex landscape using geophysical modeling and material collected from the ocean floor, including fossilized material from the plants and animals that inhabited Doggerland.
“We have now been able to model its flora and fauna, build up a picture of the ancient people that lived there and begin to understand some of the dramatic events that subsequently changed the land, including the sea rising and a devastating tsunami,” Bates said.
Initially, Doggerland was hilly with waterways and a convoluted coastline, but as sea levels rose, an archipelago of low islands would have formed.
Other interesting findings include a mass mammoth grave, standing stones, and potential human burial sites.
“We haven’t found an ‘x marks the spot’ or ‘Joe created this’, but we have found many artifacts and submerged features that are very difficult to explain by natural causes, such as mounds surrounded by ditches and fossilized tree stumps on the seafloor,” Bates said.
“There is actually very little evidence left because much of it has eroded underwater; it’s like trying to find just part of a needle within a haystack.”
“What we have found though is a remarkable amount of evidence and we are now able to pinpoint the best places to find preserved signs of life.”
Images and artifacts are currently on display in an exhibit called ‘Drowned Landscapes’ at the annual Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London.