An unlimited plateau of land between England and the Netherlands was as soon as lively earlier than it sank beneath what’s now the North Sea some 8,000 years in the past. Archaeologists now hope to seek out out what the huge panorama appeared like earlier than it slipped beneath the salty water so way back.
To do that, they’ve hauled up cores of sediment from the underside of the North Sea in an space known as Doggerland. It is named for the shoal known as Dogger Financial institution within the southern a part of the North Sea, which in flip is known as for a sort of medieval Dutch fishing boat known as a dogger. The land turned ice-free about 12,000 years in the past, after the tip of the final ice age.
Extra just lately, about 8,000 years in the past, the plateau of land between what’s now the east of England and the Netherlands was flooded by the ocean. This introduced an finish to the forests and animal life that had colonized the area from different components of Europe, together with early human communities. [See Images of a Treasure Trove Found Beneath North Sea]
The chief marine geoarchaeologist for Wessex Archaeology, Claire Mellett, mentioned that 10 of the sediment cores taken by an offshore wind-farm developer from the North Sea contained historical deposits of peat. This natural materials can kind solely in marshes on land.
These cores at the moment are being studied for clues concerning the flooded area. This analysis consists of research of historical pollen grains and different microscopic fossils contained within the peat samples, which might reveal particulars of the panorama and local weather of Doggerland earlier than it sank.
Wind farm finds
The newest sediment cores had been taken from the Norfolk Boreas web site, a wind farm about 45 miles (72 kilometers) from the shore at its nearest level that covers 280 sq. miles (725 sq. km). Mellett mentioned that the sediment cores containing historical peat deposits coated a reasonably broad space of round 32 sq. miles (85 sq. km) of the flooded Doggerland area. This was the primary time that sediment cores masking such a large space had been recovered from the underwater area, she mentioned
The researchers cross-referenced the core areas with remotely sensed photographs of the seafloor the place the samples had been taken, which may present the hidden construction of the flooded panorama.
“The distant sensing offers us a picture of the seabed, however no bodily materials — so once we get the cores, that provides us the precise proof,” Mellett instructed Stay Science.
“We are able to see the place the outdated rivers are. We are able to see the peat lands, and we will see the extent of them, so we all know how huge they’re. We’re primarily reconstructing the geography of the North Sea round 10,000 years in the past,” she mentioned.
The peat deposits had been notably essential as a result of they include an environmental report of the altering panorama and local weather of the world, spanning from about 12,000 to eight,000 years in the past, Mellett defined. [30 of the World’s Most Valuable Treasures That Are Still Missing]
“Not solely is the peat laborious proof of a former land floor, [but] it [also] has wonderful preservation of microscopic fossils — and that’s what offers us the data to reconstruct local weather, sea ranges and what bushes had been rising within the space,” she mentioned.
“We additionally have a look at issues like microscopic charcoal, so we will see when there was a giant burning occasion. We do not know whether or not that burning was pushed by people or whether or not it was a pure forest hearth, however we will all see all that inside these peat deposits,” she mentioned.
Some human stays — together with a part of an historical cranium and a number of other human artifacts, like fragments of stone instruments — have been recovered by fishing and dredging operations within the components of the North Sea that cowl the flooded Doggerland area.
The work being finished by Wessex Archaeology may assist scientists discover extra potential websites of early human habitation in Doggerland, Mellett mentioned.
“Our final endgame can be to supply maps of the world at completely different time durations, so we’ll do one for simply after the ice age. We count on it will likely be fairly a sparse panorama with out many bushes, a bit like Arctic Canada in the present day.
“After which, the bushes begin to come again because the local weather warms. We all know that the woodland was fairly open and that there have been broad areas the place we had marshlands rising, so we’ll do one other reconstruction for that.”
Lastly, she mentioned, “we will see when the ocean stage begins to rise and the world floods. And then you definately get drowning of the world. You get tidal creeks, and also you get bits of shoreline.”
One of many lasting mysteries of Doggerland is simply how shortly the area flooded, and the sediment research by Mellett and her colleagues will attempt to reply that query.
“The life span of the folks right now was about 30 years, so [even] if sea stage was rising, they most likely would not have been capable of observe it,” Mellett mentioned. “However in geological historical past, it is one of many fastest-rising sea ranges that we have ever skilled.”
It might need taken just a few centuries for Doggerland to go from a forested plateau to being fully coated by the ocean: “[it was] lower than 1,000 years, and it could be nearer to 500 years,” she mentioned.
Initially revealed on Stay Science.