Land Beneath The Waves........... by Carol Cotterill

Any talk about submerged landscapes has the tendency to bring Atlantis to mind. However, the importance of our submerged landscapes and archaeology was brought to the fore at the Eurocean Conference in Rome earlier this month with the launch of a joint geosciences – humanities strategy called “Land Beneath the Waves”.

How many of us have looked out over the North Sea, or the Irish Sea or the Mediterranean and considered what our landscape would look like if we altered the sea level? A fascinating fact is that 20,000 years ago the European landmass was 40% who lived there; where did they live; how did they move about between places; did they follow the hunting across the wetland and marshes of what is now the North Sea basin; did they build piers or jetties to tie boats up alongside?
Position paper 21 of the European Marine Board

These are just a few of the many questions that archaeologists have been fascinated by for years. However, addressing these questions will also help us to further understand our changing climate and fluctuating sea levels, and the impact that these changes have on our coastlines and marine habitats that currently support such a rich diversity of sea life.
Alan Stevenson from BGS was a member of the Working Group responsible for the report and describes the context of the “Land beneath the Waves”.
The creation of a new research field (Continental Shelf Prehistoric Research) indicates a significant raising of the profile of an area of scientific research that was under-represented. This is an area that many of our past and present Marine projects already recognise, including working with archaeologists on the East Coast and Humber Regional Environmental Characterisations for The Crown Estate, and a recently funded project with Wessex Archaeology looking at migration routes from mainland Europe to the north-eastern coast of the UK. This new strategy sees BGS positioned to provide geological information to this dynamic, multi-national research area, helping to provide the knowledge necessary to manage the ever increasing demands on our marine environment whilst protecting our cultural heritage and marine habitats.

And who knows.......maybe Atlantis is out there!

Carol Cotterill