Archaeological Mystery Scientific mystery

The 9000-year-old Artifacts Found in the North Sea Reveal the Existence of Doggerland

For the adventurous mudlark, the shores of the Thames have proven to be a veritable treasure trove of history. In recent years, these modern-day treasure hunters have uncovered a wealth of artifacts from times past, ranging from shards of Roman pottery to shoes from the Tudor era.

The mudlarks’ efforts have garnered widespread interest, with a dedicated Facebook page dedicated to showcasing their finds attracting nearly 30,000 followers. But it’s not just riverbeds that hold secrets from the past – the seabeds can be just as rich in lost history.

Case in point: the North Sea. While one may not expect to find shards of Roman pottery, fishermen have reported discovering something even more remarkable – bones, tools, and other artifacts dating back as far as 9,000 years. These finds have piqued the interest of British and Dutch archaeologists and paleontologists, as they may provide evidence of the once-submerged land of Doggerland.

The red line marks Dogger Bank, which is most likely a moraine formed in the Pleistocene

This brings us to the last great Ice Age, which was coming to a close approximately 12,000 years ago. At that time, the British Isles were not yet British, nor were they islands. The map of Europe was quite different, as the mainland of the continent was connected to Britain’s eastern coast by a vast stretch of land. This land was comprised of hills, marshlands, and dense forests, and it covered much of the area that is now the North Sea.

This land was known as Doggerland, and it was home to Mesolithic people who lived there for many years. These prehistoric people were hunter-gatherers, relying on fishing and hunting for sustenance, as well as gathering fruits, berries, and nuts from the forests.

Life was good in Doggerland until around 6,500 BC to 6,200 BC, when rising sea levels began to take their toll. Scientists believe that this once-thriving human habitat was slowly submerged beneath the sea, forcing the Doggerlanders to migrate to areas that are now part of England and the Netherlands.

Woolly mammoth skull discovered by fishermen in the North Sea, at Celtic and Prehistoric Museum, Ireland Author Omigos CC BY-SA 3.0

Recently, experts have been working to create a digital model that depicts what Doggerland might have looked like before it was lost to the floods. The data used to create this model was largely obtained from oil companies that operate in the North Sea. The resulting model covers an area of approximately 18,000 square miles.

Like the mythical city of Atlantis, Doggerland is now a sunken and forgotten Stone Age habitat, its remnants only visible in the form of decaying bones and artifacts that are occasionally caught in fishing nets. Its story serves as a cautionary tale of the potential consequences of rapidly rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Map showing hypothetical extent of Doggerland (c. 10,000 BC), which provided a land bridge between Great Britain and continental Europe Author Max Naylor CC BY-SA 3.0

Experts who study Doggerland have drawn parallels between its fate and the current reality of climate change. The low-lying settlements of the Doggerlanders were easily swamped by the rising waters, leading to the eventual separation of Britain from the mainland. The National Geographic warns that, if polar ice caps continue to melt at an accelerated pace, a similar situation could affect the billions of people who live within 37 miles of a shoreline today.


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