Caroline Wickham-Jones
Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Aberdeen

Presented by University of St. Andrews, University of Birmingham, University of Aberdeen, University of Dundee and University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Dr Richard Bates
Senior Lecturer, University of St Andrews

Professor Vince Gaffney
Chair in Landscape Archaeology and Geomatics and Director of the Visual and Spatial Technology Centre (VISTA), University of Birmingham

Dr Martin Bates
Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Wales Trinity Saint David

Further reading

The only lands on Earth that have not been extensively explored are those that have been lost to the oceans. After the end of the last Ice Age extensive landscapes that had once been home to thousands of people were inundated by the sea. Although scientists predicted their existence for many years, exploration has only recently become a reality.

Lostworld -5-320A virtual visualisation of an Agent Based model of life in the Mesolithic on the Doggerbank. Credit: Dr. Eugene Ch'ng, University of Birmingham

This exhibit explores those drowned landscapes around the UK and shows how they are being rediscovered through pioneering scientific research. It reveals their human story through the artefacts left by the people - a story of a dramatic past that featured lost lands, devastating tsunamis and massive climate change. These were the challenges that our ancestors met and that we face once more today.

How it works

Current climate change and associated sea level rise are at the forefront of social and scientific discussion, but research shows that dramatic changes in the environment have occurred numerous times in the past.

One of the most significant landscapes lost to sea level rise is the European world of Doggerland. Occupying much of the North Sea basin, this inundated landscape, bigger than many modern European countries, was slowly submerged between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC. Archaeologists now consider Doggerland to have been the heartland of human occupation within Northern Europe at that time, but understanding it depends on being able to locate and visualise the landscape.

Scientists have taken a new approach to this by coupling geophysical survey techniques developed by the oil industry with 3D visualisation technologies developed by the computer modelling industry. These innovative methodologies allow the recreation of these once inhabited landscapes, mapping rivers, lakes, hills, coastlines and estuaries, and the modelling of the flora and fauna associated with them. These models bring back to life the homeland of these Mesolithic populations, tantalisingly hinted at by artefacts recovered from the seabed. They also allow scientists to explore the effects of sea level rise upon the landscape and its populations in new and more immersive ways that may help the past provide solutions for the present.

Visit the Facebook page for Europe's Lost World: Our Drowned Landscapes.