Submerged in recent times, there was in the Mesolithic period a land bridge connecting Britain with the continent. Fishermen working the Dogger Banks have pulled up prehistoric human artifacts in their nets, and archaeologists consequently named the sunken landscape once thick with human settlement Doggerland. Efforts at mapping Doggerland are currently underway.
Doggerland is key to understanding the Mesolithic in northern Europe,â€ says Vince Gaffney, a landscape archaeologist at the University of Birmingham, UK.
Along with his colleagues Simon Fitch and the late Ken Thomson, Gaffney established the mapping project to outline the terrain of Doggerland, named after the sandbank and shipping hazard of the Dogger Bank (see â€˜Mesolithic sites around the North Seaâ€™). They managed to borrow seismic survey data, which outline sediment layers below the seabed, from the Norwegian oil company Petroleum Geo-Services. The researchers then put their powerful computers to work to reconstruct Doggerland in three dimensions.
In a pilot project beginning in 2002, the researchers reconstructed 6,000 square metres of the ancient landscape â€” slightly larger than a football field. There, about 10 metres beneath the modern seabed, they discovered the course of a major ancient river, almost as big as todayâ€™s Rhine. They named it the Shotton River, after Birmingham geologist Fred Shotton who, among other things, was dropped behind enemy lines to map the geology of the Normandy beaches before the D-Day landings. Now confident that the reconstruction would work, the researchers expanded the project. The result is a 23,000-square-kilometre map of a part of Doggerland â€” an area the size of Wales â€” that they hope eventually to extend northward as well as eastward, towards the Netherlands.