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The lost landscape
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Archaeologists are uncovering a huge prehistoric "lost country" hidden below the North Sea.
This lost landscape, where hunter gatherer communities once lived, was swallowed by rising water levels at the end of the last ice age.
University of Birmingham researchers are heralding "stunning" findings as they map the "best-preserved prehistoric landscape in Europe".
This large plain had disappeared below the water more than 8,000 years ago.
Scientists at the University of Birmingham have been using oil exploration technology to build a map of the once-inhabited area that now lies below the North Sea - stretching from the east coast of Britain up to the Shetland Islands and across to Scandinavia.

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RE: Doggerland
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Archaeologists at Wessex Archaeology have completed a 3D animation that reveals a prehistoric landscape, now submerged under the English Channel, as it might have appeared 8000 years ago.
At the end of the last ice age the River Arun in West Sussex flowed a further 8 miles out. Archaeological survey has revealed the lay of the land, and what plants and trees grew there. The complex evidence has been turned into a compelling animated tour showing how the landscape might have looked and how families made a living from the land and the sea.
The Seabed Prehistory project was established to research ways of identifying evidence of prehistoric landscapes in and around aggregate dredging areas. This dredging provides many of the raw materials, such as gravel, needed for the buildings industry. The project was designed to see if equipment that is commonly used by the offshore industry could also identify archaeological remains. It was an opportunity for archaeologists and the aggregate industry to work together to gain a better understanding of the archaeology under the seabed. The results of this project will inform future proposals for new aggregate dredging licences.
The picture is built up with data collected as part of the project, or inferred from other research. Geophysical survey identified the different geological layers in the study area, revealing the shape of the land. Vibrocores were used to gather evidence from the buried landscape. Vibrocores are tubes that are pushed into the seabed. The column of sediment that is caught within the tube contains layers of ancient soils.
The researchers were able to identify a layer of sediment dating to the Mesolithic period. This deposit corresponds with a geological layer found in the geophysical survey. Trapped with those layers were seeds and pollen from the trees and plants that grew at the time. By mapping where individual species are found, scientists can plot particular habitats and so build up a detailed picture of the landscape.

Source: Wessex Archaeology news

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For nearly 30 years, Wisconsin archaeologist T. Douglas Price has tramped the damp fields and coastal meadows of Denmark looking to put flesh on the bones of prehistory. In the Mesolithic, an epoch that spanned a period of about 6,000 years beginning in 10,000 BCE, Denmark, it turns out, was a happenin' place.

"It was a superb place for people to live" - T. Douglas Price , University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of anthropology.

With a climate moderated by the ocean and abundant natural resources seals, fish, deer, wild pig, fowl, nuts the hunting and gathering life in prehistoric Denmark was about as good as it got in an age when the height of technology was a stone axe.
Modern Denmark is an especially good place to be if you are an archaeologist. Neolithic graves dot the countryside. And, importantly, the moist soil of the Scandinavian country lends itself to the preservation of organic material - the remains of food, clothing and other mundane necessities that help archaeologists piece together a picture everyday life in the Stone Age.
For a decade Price, along with his Danish archaeologist wife, Anne Birgitte Gebauer, worked primarily on Zealand, one of the many islands that make up the country of Denmark.

"We were walking fields, finding sites and digging for 10 years. Almost all of our work was done in coastal regions, although we finally excavated an inland site a few years ago."

All of this, says Price, provided an excellent setting to ferret out the signals in the archaeological record that depict the human transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer, one of archaeology's great quests.

"Over time, my interest turned to why these hunters became farmers. It was in the late Mesolithic, just before the Neolithic, when farming emerged. Agriculture came to Denmark about 4,000 BCE."

One of the intriguing questions about this transition, of course, is why?

"There is no indication the resources changed substantially. We've looked at a series of sites and we can see that there was no dramatic change in the availability of food. I think it was an economic-religious phenomenon."

Farmers, according to Price, had been doing their thing in Germany, Denmark's neighbour to the south, as far back as 5,500 BCE, 1,500 years before agricultural practices arrived in Denmark. Why animal husbandry and the cultivation of wheat, barley, grapes and lentils took longer to reach Denmark, no one is sure. But the delayed timing provides archaeologists with a window to see how such a monumental cultural, technological and economic change infused Stone Age culture.

"That shift to agriculture, in the absence of climate change and the availability of natural resources, indicates people are changing their way of life. It was a new way of doing things."

Source: University of Wisconsin

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Over the last 100 years, evidence of this lost landscape has been recovered by fishing boats and dredgers which have recovered the tusks and bones of more than 50,000 mammoths.
We know that Mesolithic man hunted them because, in 1931 just off the Norfolk coast on the Leman and Ower banks, a fine, 11,500 years old barbed harpoon made of antler was recovered in a trawl net.

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"Doggerland" is the now-drowned lands in the coastal plain that was formed in the North Sea when sea level dropped during the most recent glacial maximum.

The Doggerland terrain was available for settlement by early man, until it was buried beneath rising sea levels perhaps as recent as 6500 years ago.
Palaeolithic reindeer hunters roamed the land; some traces of their encampments have been identified, but the timing of the submergence has not been fixed. The ice sheets started melting around 18,000 years ago causing sea levels to rise by about 120 to 130 meters. Most of the glacial melt had occurred by around 8,000 years ago
The Dogger Banks now marks the location in the North Sea.

Around 7500 BC, Doggerland was a rich hunting, fowling and fishing ground. It consisted of a coastal estuarine landscape of lagoons, marshes, mud-flats and beaches with narrow-sided valleys and gently rolling hills. Doggerland may have been the heartland of the Mesolithic culture.


This official Geological Surveys shows the landscape around 14,000-15,000 years ago in the first warm (interstadial) period after the glacial maximum.

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