Many cultures across the globe can lay claim to their own mythical lost “city of Atlantis,” but what if Atlantis was an entire land connecting the United Kingdom and Europe thousands of year ago where tens of thousands of animals and people lived?
It’s not a question anymore because archaeologists have discovered just such a land on the ocean floor off the British coast.
Just as the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska used to be a strip of land before sea-level rise made it disappear forever, a land dubbed “Doggerland” has been discovered with the help of oil company divers in the muddy waters off the coast of Norfolk.
“The name was coined for Dogger Bank, but it applies to any of several periods when the North Sea was land,” University of St Andrews archaeological geophysicist Richard Bates told the Daily Mail. “Around 20,000 years ago, there was a ‘maximum’ – although part of this area would have been covered with ice. When the ice melted, more land was revealed – but the sea level also rose.”
According to the New York Post, artifacts have been discovered that date back to around 10,000 years ago, and were found at what are believed to be two Stone Age settlements were woolly mammoths also roamed.
“Through a lot of new data from oil and gas companies, we’re able to give form to the landscape – and make sense of the mammoths found out there, and the reindeer,” Bates said. “We’re able to understand the types of people who were there.”
The reigning theory of how this land and the settlements were lost is that a tsunami hit the area around 8,000 years ago and the sea level turned it into part of the ocean floor.
“People seem to think rising sea levels are a new thing – but it’s a cycle of Earth history that has happened many many times,” Bates said. “Doggerland was the real heartland of Europe until sea levels rose to give us the UK coastline of today.”
Indeed, sea level rise is why a Hellenistic fortress from biblical times mysteriously vanished for centuries until researchers recently found it off the coast of Israel.
Bates and his team have worked hard to recreate what the area must have looked like.
“We have speculated for years on the lost land’s existence from bones dredged by fishermen all over the North Sea, but it’s only since working with oil companies in the last few years that we have been able to re-create what this lost land looked like,” he said.
“When the data was first being processed, I thought it unlikely to give us any useful information, however as more area was covered it revealed a vast and complex landscape. We have now been able to model its flora and fauna, build up a picture of the ancient people that lived there and begin to understand some of the dramatic events that subsequently changed the land, including the sea rising and a devastating tsunami.”
They speculate that tens of thousands of animals must have lived in the area at the time, many of which were hunted and processed by humans living in the area, which means the tsunami was catastrophic to human life as well, sweeping our ancient ancestors out to sea never to be seen again. Now their story can be told, and it certainly matches up well with stories of Atlantis.
But that’s not all they found. Another team led by University of Southampton Professor David Sear found the medieval city of Dunwich off the coast southeast of Norwich, which has also been dubbed “Britain’s Atlantis” using technology allowing them to analyze the ocean floor despite the muddy waters.
“DIDSON technology is rather like shining a torch onto the seabed, only using sound instead of light,” Sear told Science Daily. The data produced helps us to not only see the ruins but also understand more about how they interact with the tidal currents and sea bed.”
“The loss of most of the medieval town of Dunwich over the last few hundred years — one of the most important English ports in the Middle Ages — is part of a long process that is likely to result in more losses in the future,” coastal assessment expert Peter Murphy of English Heritage said.
“Everyone was surprised, though, by how much of the eroded town still survives under the sea and is identifiable.”
Dunwich used to be a major port city, but just like Doggerland, it ended up being swallowed by the sea, this time by a massive storm.
“Whilst we cannot stop the forces of nature, we can ensure what is significant is recorded and our knowledge and memory of a place doesn’t get lost forever,” Murphy observed. “Professor Sear and his team have developed techniques that will be valuable to understanding submerged and eroded terrestrial sites elsewhere.”
Have we found “Atlantis”? Perhaps not. But this site could be the inspiration for the stories along with other ancient cities and regions that were destroyed by the ocean so long ago.