Updated: May 2, 2022
‘Britain’s Atlantis’ – a hidden underwater world swallowed by the North Sea – has been discovered by divers working with science teams from the University of St Andrews. Doggerland, a huge area of dry land that stretched from Scotland to Denmark was slowly submerged by water between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC.
Divers from oil companies have found remains of a ‘drowned world’ with a population of tens of thousands – which might once have been the ‘real heartland’ of Europe. A team of climatologists, archaeologists and geophysicists has now mapped the area using new data from oil companies – and revealed the full extent of
a ‘lost land’ once roamed by mammoths.
A visualisation of how life in the now-submerged areas of Dogger Bank might have looked
The research suggests that the populations of these drowned lands could have been tens of thousands, living in an area that stretched from Northern Scotland across to Denmark and down the English Channel as far as the Channel Islands
Extension of the Ahrensburg culture
Doggerland is a name given by archaeologists and geologists to a former landmass in the southern North Sea that connected the island of Great Britain to mainland Europe during and after the last Ice Age, surviving until about 6,500 or 6,200 BCE and then gradually being flooded by rising sea levels.
Geological surveys have suggested that Doggerland was a large area of dry land that stretched from Britain’s east coast across to the present coast of the Netherlands and the western coasts of Germany and Denmark. Doggerland was probably a rich habitat with human habitation in the Mesolithic period.
The archaeological potential of the area had first been discussed in the early 20th century, but interest intensified in 1931 when a commercial trawler operating between the sandbanks and shipping hazards of the Leman Bank and Ower Bank east of the Wash dragged up a barbed antler point that dated to a time when the area was tundra.
Later vessels have dragged up mammoth and lion remains, among other remains of land animals, and small numbers of prehistoric tools and weapons that were used by the region’s inhabitants. The recession of the glaciers allows human colonization in Northern Europe for the first time.
Around 10,500 BCE, the Würm Glacial age ends. Slowly, through the following millennia, temperatures and sea levels rise, changing the environment of prehistoric people. Nevertheless, Magdalenian culture persists until circa 8000 BCE, when it quickly evolves into two microlithist cultures: Azilian, in Spain and southern France, and Sauveterrian, in northern France and Central Europe. Though there are some differences, both cultures share several traits: the creation of very small stone tools called microliths and the scarcity of figurative art, which seems to have vanished almost completely, being replaced by abstract decoration of tools.
In the late phase of this Epipaleolithic period, the Sauveterrean culture evolves into the so-called Tardenoisian and influences strongly its southern neighbour, clearly replacing it in Mediterranean Spain and Portugal.
The Ahrensburg culture or Ahrensburgian (11th to 10th millennia BCE) was a late Upper Paleolithic nomadic hunter culture (or technocomplex) in north-central Europe during the Younger Dryas, the last spell of cold at the end of the Weichsel glaciation resulting in deforestation and the formation of a tundra with bushy arctic white birch and rowan.
Ahrensburgian finds were made in southern and western Scandinavia, the North German plain and western Poland. The Ahrensburgian area also included vast stretches of land now at the bottom of the North and Baltic Sea, since during the Younger Dryas the coastline took a much more northern course than today.
The most important prey was the wild reindeer. The earliest definite finds of arrow and bow date to this culture, though these weapons might have been invented earlier.
The Ahrensburgian was preceded by the Hamburg and Federmesser cultures and superseded by mesolithic cultures, the Maglemosian culture (ca. 9000 BC–6000 BC), the name given to a culture of the early Mesolithic period in Northern Europe derived from the Sauveterre-Tardenois culture, but with a strong personality.
The actual name came from an archeological site in Denmark, named Maglemose near Høng on western Zealand, where the first settlement was found in 1900. During the following century a long series of similar settlements were excavated from England to Poland and from Skåne in Sweden to northern France. The Maglemosian colonizes Denmark and the nearby regions, including parts of Britain.
The Maglemosian people lived in forest and wetland environments using fishing and hunting tools made from wood, bone, and flint microliths. It appears that they had domesticated the dog. Some may have lived settled lives but most were nomadic.
Huts made of bark have been preserved, and the tools were made of flintstone, bone, and horn. A characteristic of the culture are the sharply edged microliths of flintstone which were used for spear heads and arrow heads. A notable feature is the Leister or Fish Spear.
Sea levels in northern Europe did not reach current levels until almost 6000 BC by which time they had inundated some territories inhabited by Maglemosian people.
In Scandinavia the Maglemosian culture is succeeded by the Kongemose culture (ca. 6000 BC–5200 BC), a mesolithic hunter-gatherer culture in southern Scandinavia, and the origin of the Ertebølle culture (ca 5300 BC – 3950 BC). In the north the Kongemose culture were bordered on the Scandinavian Nøstvet and Lihult cultures.