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Map showing hypothetical extent of Doggerland (c. 10,000 BCE), which provided a land bridge between Great Britain and continental Europe

Doggerland was an area now beneath the southern North Sea that connected Great Britain to continental Europe during and after the last glacial period. It was flooded by rising sea levels around 6,500–6,200 BCE. Geological surveys have suggested that it stretched from Britain's east coast to the Netherlands and the western coasts of Germany and the peninsula of Jutland.[1] It was probably a rich habitat with human habitation in the Mesolithic period,[2] although rising sea levels gradually reduced it to low-lying islands before its final submergence, possibly following a tsunami caused by the Storegga Slide.[3]

The archaeological potential of the area had first been identified in the early 20th century, but interest intensified in 1931 when a fishing trawler operating east of the Wash dragged up a barbed antler point that was subsequently dated to a time when the area was tundra. Vessels have dragged up remains of mammoth, lion and other animals, as well as a few prehistoric tools and weapons.[4]

Doggerland was named after the Dogger Bank, which in turn was named after the 17th century Dutch fishing boats called doggers.


File:Doggerland3er en.png
Map showing hypothetical extent of Doggerland from Weichselian glaciation until the current situation.

Until the middle Pleistocene, Britain was a peninsula of Europe, connected by the massive chalk Weald–Artois Anticline across the Straits of Dover. During the Anglian glaciation, approximately 450,000 years ago, an ice sheet filled much of the North Sea, with a large proglacial lake in the southern part fed by the Rhine, Scheldt and Thames river systems. The catastrophic overflow of this lake carved a channel through the anticline, leading to the formation of the Channel River, which carried the combined Scheldt and Thames to the Atlantic. This probably created the potential for Britain to become isolated from the continent during periods of high sea level, although some scientists argue that the final break did not occur until a second ice-dammed lake overflowed during the MIS8 or MIS6 glaciations, around 340,000 or 240,000 years ago.[5]

During the most recent glaciation of the Last Glacial Maximum, which ended around 18,000 years ago, the North Sea and much of the British Isles were covered with glacial ice and the sea level was about 120 m (390 ft) lower. Subsequently, the climate became warmer and during the Late Glacial Maximum around 12,000 BCE Britain, as well as much of the North Sea and English Channel, was an expanse of low-lying tundra.[6]

Evidence, including the contours of the present seabed, indicates that after the first main Ice Age, the watershed between the North Sea and English Channel extended east from East Anglia then south-east to the Hook of Holland, rather than across the Strait of Dover. The Seine, Thames, Meuse, Scheldt and Rhine rivers joined and flowed west along the English Channel as a wide slow river before eventually reaching the Atlantic Ocean.[2][6] At about 10,000 BCE the north-facing coastal area of Doggerland had a coastline of lagoons, saltmarshes, mudflats and beaches as well as inland streams, rivers, marshes and lakes. It may have been the richest hunting, fowling and fishing ground in Europe in the Mesolithic period.[2][7]

One big river system found by 3D seismic survey was the "Shotton River", which drained the south-east part of the Dogger Bank hill area into the east end of the Outer Silver Pit lake. It is named after Birmingham geologist Frederick William Shotton.


The red line marks Dogger Bank, which is most likely a moraine formed in the Pleistocene[8]

As ice melted at the end of the last glacial period of the current ice age, sea levels rose and the land began to tilt in an isostatic adjustment as the huge weight of ice lessened. Doggerland eventually became submerged, cutting off what was previously the British peninsula from the European mainland by around 6500 BCE.[6] The Dogger Bank, an upland area of Doggerland, remained an island until at least 5000 BCE.[6][9] Key stages are now believed to have included the gradual evolution of a large tidal bay between eastern England and Dogger Bank by 9000 BCE and a rapid sea-level rise thereafter, leading to Dogger Bank becoming an island and Great Britain getting physically disconnected from the continent.[10]

A recent hypothesis postulates that much of the remaining coastal land was flooded by a megatsunami around 6200 BCE, caused by a submarine landslide off the coast of Norway known as the Storegga Slide. This suggests: "that the Storegga Slide tsunami would have had a catastrophic impact on the contemporary coastal Mesolithic population.... Britain finally became separated from the continent and in cultural terms, the Mesolithic there goes its own way."[10] A study published in 2014 suggested that the only remaining parts of Doggerland at the time of the Storegga Slide were low-lying islands, but supported the view that the area had been abandoned at about the same time as the tsunamis.[3]

Another view speculates that the Storegga tsunami devastated Doggerland but then ebbed back into the sea, with the later bursting of Lake Agassiz (in North America) releasing so much fresh water that sea levels over about two years rose to flood much of Doggerland and make Britain an island.[11]

Discovery and investigation by archaeologists

Woolly mammoth skull discovered by fishermen in the North Sea, at Celtic and Prehistoric Museum, Ireland

The prehistoric existence of what is now known as Doggerland was established in the late 19th century. H. G. Wells referred to the concept in his short story A Story of the Stone Age of 1897, set in "a time when one might have walked dryshod from France (as we call it now) to England, and when a broad and sluggish Thames flowed through its marshes to meet its father Rhine, flowing through a wide and level country that is under water in these latter days, and which we know by the name of the North Sea...Fifty thousand years ago it was, fifty thousand years if the reckoning of geologists is correct", though most of the action seems to occur in modern Surrey and Kent, but stretching out to Doggerland.[12]

The remains of plants brought to the surface from Dogger Bank were studied in 1913 by paleobiologist Clement Reid, and the remains of animals and worked flints from the Neolithic period had also been found.[13] In his book The Antiquity of Man of 1915, anatomist Sir Arthur Keith discussed the archaeological potential of the area.[13] In 1931, the trawler Colinda hauled up a lump of peat whilst fishing near the Ower Bank, 40 kilometres (25 mi) east of Norfolk. The peat was found to contain a barbed antler point, possibly used as a harpoon or fish spear, 220 millimetres (8.5 in) long, which dated from between 4,000 and 10,000 BCE when the area was tundra.[2][7]

Interest was reinvigorated in the 1990s by Professor Bryony Coles, who named the area "Doggerland" ("after the great banks in the southern North Sea"[7]) and produced speculative maps of the area.[7][14] Although she recognised that the current relief of the southern North Sea seabed is not a sound guide to the topography of Doggerland,[14] this topography has more recently begun to be reconstructed more authoritatively using seismic survey data obtained from oil exploration.[15][16][17]

A skull fragment of a Neanderthal, dated at over 40,000 years old, was recovered from material dredged from the Middeldiep, some 16 kilometres (10 mi) off the coast of Zeeland, and exhibited in Leiden in 2009.[18] In March 2010 it was reported that recognition of the potential archaeological importance of the area could affect the future development of offshore wind farms.[19]

In July 2012, the results of a fifteen-year study of Doggerland by the universities of St Andrews, Dundee, and Aberdeen, including artefacts survey results, were displayed at the Royal Society in London.[20] Richard Bates of St Andrews University said:[20]

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.... 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.

In September 2015, archaeologists at the University of Bradford announced their project to chart Doggerland in 3D, and to study DNA from deep sea core samples.[21]

In popular culture

  • The "Mammoth Journey" episode of the BBC television programme Walking with Beasts is partly set on the dry bed of the southern North Sea.
  • The area featured in a 2007 episode of the Channel 4 Time Team (specials) documentary series called "Britain's Drowned World".[22]
  • The first chapter of Edward Rutherfurd's novel Sarum describes the flooding of Doggerland.
  • Science fiction author Stephen Baxter's Northland trilogy is set in an alternative timeline in which Doggerland (Northland in the books) is never inundated.
  • The opening song of Ian Anderson's 2014 album, Homo Erraticus, is titled "Doggerland," and provides a first person narrative from the point of view of the prehistoric people who might have lived there.

See also


  1. "The Doggerland Project", University of Exeter Department of Archaeology
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Patterson, W, "Coastal Catastrophe" (paleoclimate research document), University of Saskatchewan
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rincon, Paul (1 May 2014). "Prehistoric North Sea 'Atlantis' hit by 5m tsunami". BBC News.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Mihai, Andrei (February 5, 2015). "Doggerland – the land that connected Europe and the UK 8000 years ago". ZME Science. Retrieved February 18, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Pettitt, Paul; White, Mark (2012). The British Palaeolithic: Human Societies at the Edge of the Pleistocene World. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. 98–102, 277. ISBN 978-0-415-67455-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 University of Sussex, School of Life Sciences June 2011/ Archived June 9, 2011 at the Wayback Machine, C1119 Modern human evolution, Lecture 6, slide 23
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Vincent Gaffney, "Global Warming and Lost Lands: Understanding the Effects of Sea Level Rise"
  8. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  9. Scarre, Chris (2005). The Human Past: World Prehistory & the Development of Human Societies. London: Thames & Hudson. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-500-28531-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Bernhard Weninger et al., The catastrophic final flooding of Doggerland by the Storegga Slide tsunami, Documenta Praehistorica XXXV, 2008
  11. Britain's Stone Age Tsunami, Channel 4, 8 to 9 pm, Thursday 30 May 2013
  12. Online text
  13. 13.0 13.1 Keith, Arthur (15 August 2004). "3". The Antiquity of Man. Anmol Publications Pvt Ltd. p. 41. ISBN 81-7041-977-8. Retrieved 12 January 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 B.J. Coles. "Doggerland : a speculative survey (Doggerland : une prospection spéculative)", Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, ISSN 0079-497X, 1998, vol. 64, pp. 45–81 (3 p.1/4)
  15. Laura Spinney, "The lost world: Doggerland"
  16. Vincent Gaffney, Kenneth Thomson, Simon Fitch, Mapping Doggerland: The Mesolithic Landscapes of the Southern North Sea, University of Birmingham, 2007
  17. Vincent Gaffney, Simon Fitch, David Smith, Europe's Lost World: The rediscovery of Doggerland, University of Birmingham, 2009
  18. Palarch: Spectacular discovery of first-ever Dutch Neanderthal Fossil skull fragment unveiled by Minister Plasterk in National Museum of Antiquities, 15 June 2009
  19. "Stone Age could complicate N. Sea wind farm plans", Reuters, 23 March 2010
  20. 20.0 20.1 BBC News, "Hidden Doggerland underworld uncovered in North Sea", 3 July 2012. Accessed 4 July 2012
  21. Sarah Knapton (1 September 2015). "British Atlantis: archaeologists begin exploring lost world of Doggerland". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Heritage Action

Further reading

  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  • Gaffney, V.; Thomson, K.; Fitch, S., eds. (2007). Mapping Doggerland: The Mesolithic Landscapes of the Southern North Sea. Archaeopress.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Gaffney, Vincent; Fitch, Simon; Smith, David (2009). The Rediscovery of Doggerland. Council for British Archaeology. ISBN 1-902771-77-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Moffat, Alistair (2005). Before Scotland: The Story of Scotland Before History. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-05133-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Discussed in depth in chapters 2–4.
  • Morelle, Rebecca (4 April 2017). "Evidence of ancient 'geological Brexit' revealed". BBC News. Retrieved 5 April 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Spinney, Laura (December 2012). Robert Clark (photog.); Alexander Maleev (illus.). "The Lost World of Doggerland". National Geographic. 222 (6): 132–143. Retrieved 30 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links