Lost world revealed by human, Neanderthal relics washed up on North Sea beaches
During the last ice age, sea levels were 70 meters lower, and what is now the North Sea between Great Britain and the Netherlands was a rich lowland, home to modern humans, Neanderthals, and even earlier hominins. Scientists on both sides of the North Sea are applying precise new methods to date the artifacts and sequence any genetic traces, as well as mapping the sea floor and analyzing sediment cores. Doggerland-which University of Exeter archaeologist Bryony Coles named in the 1990s after the Dogger Banks, a productive North Sea fishing spot-extended from Amsterdam up to Scotland and southern Norway. A few flint tools, found among stones dredged from the sea floor to create artificial sea walls for the Rotterdam harbor, suggest H. sapiens may have been active in Doggerland even as early as 40,000 years ago, when it was still an icy steppe. Putting those maps together with the sheer number of samples emerging from the North Sea, researchers are beginning to answer a question particularly relevant to humanity's future: What do people do when sea levels rise? About 8500 years ago, a massive freshwater lake in North America called Lake Agassiz, formed by melting glaciers, drained suddenly into the sea. Researchers say the techniques being pioneered or perfected in the North Sea could be applied to far-flung hot spots of human migration, including Beringia and the waters that surround the archipelagos of Oceania.