Atlantis of Britain: Prehistoric Territory of Doggerland Prepares to Unveil its Secrets
Doggerland, sometimes called the Stone Age Atlantis of Britain or a prehistoric Garden of Eden, is an area archaeologists have been waiting to rediscover. Finally, modern technology has reached a level in which their dreams may become a reality. Doggerland is thought to have been first inhabited around 10,000 BC, and innovative technology is expected to aid a new study in glimpsing into what life was like for the prehistoric humans living in the region before the catastrophic floods covered the territory sometime between 8000 - 6000 BC.
Located in the North Sea, Doggerland is believed to have once measured approximately 100,000 square miles (258998 square kilometers). However, the end of the Ice Age saw a great rise in the sea level and an increase in storms and flooding in the region, causing Doggerland to gradually shrink.
Location of Doggerland (in bright green) ( University of Bradford )
The location is known for providing prehistoric animal bones and, to a lesser extent, human remains and artifacts.
By using seabed mapping the team of archaeologists, computer scientists, and molecular biologists from the University of Bradford have begun tracking the changes in the ancient environment of Doggerland. They judge that the climate change diminished the territory of Doggerland so much that it turned from a vast territory to an island, and then was eventually consumed by the surrounding waters around 5500 BC.
Specifically, a tsunami of 5 meter (16 feet) waves, set off by an immense landslide near Norway, is the culprit in the catastrophe that ended human inhabitants in Doggerland, according to the study presented by Imperial College in 2014.
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Apart from seabed mapping, survey ships in the current study have also been sent out to begin collecting pollen, insects, plant and animal DNA (using sedaDNA technology), along with artifacts so that a better picture of the landscape, lifestyle and human use of Doggerland can be revealed.
Professor Robin Allaby, School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, and one of the researchers on the project said in a statement that: "The constant environment of the sea floor preserves ancient DNA exceptionally well allowing us to reconstruct palaeoenvironments many thousands of years older than is possible on land at the same latitude.”
The techniques to be used in the study are groundbreaking according to Dr David Smith of the University of Birmingham. As he told The Telegraph : “This is the first time that this type of reconstruction has been attempted at this detail and scale in any marine environment. The opportunity to provide complementary analysis of established and new technologies, including DNA, at such a scale is also likely to provide a step change in our understanding of past environments and our approach to landscape reconstruction.
“Mapping Doggerland” part of the North Sea Palaeolandscapes Project, published in 2008 ( University of Birmingham )
The lead researcher, Professor Vince Gaffney of the University of Bradford, has high hopes that the five year study will provide a big payoff in terms of understanding the recolonizing of Northern Europe by Stone Age humans. Professor Gaffney told The Independent :
Because these areas of continental shelf became sea, they have been inaccessible to archaeologists until now. However, this project will access new data at a scale never previously attempted. Novel mapping, DNA extraction and computer modeling representing people, animals and even individual plants will generate a 4 dimensional model of how Doggerland was colonized and eventually lost to the sea. A dramatic, and previously lost, period of human prehistory will begin to emerge from the seismic traces, fragments of DNA and snippets of computer code that will form the primary data of this innovative archaeological project.
The study of Doggerland has received a €2.5 million ($2.8 million) Advanced Research Grant from the European Research Council, with hopes that the results of the study provide better insight into the life of prehistoric inhabitants who are thought to have resided in the area for about 6000 years.
Featured Image: The Mesolithic people of Doggerland ( Alexander Maleev )