Saturday, 14 July 2012

Doggerland - Europe's Lost World

A team of archaeology researchers werepart of the the Royal Society's Summer Exhibition recently, in which they described the work they are undertaking to map and understand the now-underwater landscape of Doggerland, in the North Sea. This large land area was exposed because, during the last ice-age, sea levels were around 120metres lower than today, resulting in a great deal more land being exposed. After the ice-age, the area slowly became submerged between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC.

It has been long been known that this area used to be land and was once inhabited, not least because trawlers have periodically dredged up human artifacts when fishing in the area. It's worth remembering that this was not some desolate wasteland, but an area with lakes and rivers, as well as varied plant and animal life.

One of the last areas to be inundated was the "Dogger Bank", which now lies just 20m below sea level (compared to 50-70m for much of the rest of the North Sea) and it is fascinating to think about what happened to the inhabitants of this area as the sea slowly but steadily encroached on their land. Did they feel threatened? Did they move to the mainland well before things got a bit tricky? Were they in touch with the mainland by boat for thousands of years before they moved out?

Or was it the other way around, perhaps they spent their time fending off invaders from Scandanavia, Denmark, France and England?

Incidentally, you can explore the North Sea via a zoomable maritime chart here (prepare to be surpised how many oil and gas fields are in the area)

NSB was surprised to see that one of the main funders for this work was the "Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund", being unaware that such a fund existed. A little digging revealed that this very worthy fund was scrapped in late 2010, a rather disturbing decision that you can read about here.

More information on the project can be found at the Birmingham University Website., including an interesting article in Nature.

As well as the geography of the area, project partners are using low cost rapid prototyping technology to make replicas - sometimes at ncreased scale - of artifacts that have been recovered from the Doggerland area.

The researcher involved in this aspect of the work was really engaging, quipping that "I'm working in artificial intelligence and emerging technologies - what could possibly go wrong?".

NSB's mind has scrolled - through - the - possibilities and suspects that mankind will be okay so long as the AI needs plugging in. Issac Asimov could have avoided a lot of grief if he had just make a fourth rule of robotics which said "A robot must have a battery life of no longer than three hours"

Update Sep 2014
"One time professor in Clean fossil energy and carbon capture" Trevor Drage (@trevorgrage) Tweeted about research into subsea landslides and NSB was gobsmacked to read about the "Storegga Slide", one of the largest landslides known, which caused Tsunami that would have swept catastrophically across the low lying Doggerland.


  1. How rich would the Doggerland people be now, sitting on top of all those oilfields, if their land hadn't sunk beneath the sea?

  2. Good point! I guess they would have got all the revenues that the UK and Norway have been sharing between themselves over the last few decades. . .