National Geographic : 2012 Dec
MUSEUM OF ANTIQUITIES, LEIDEN, NETHERLANDS TOP e evidence started to sur- face a century and a half ago, when fishermen along the Dutch coast widely adopted a technique called beam trawling. ey dragged weighted nets across the sea oor and hoisted them up full of sole, plaice, and other bottom sh. But sometimes an enormous tusk would spill out and clatter onto the deck, or the re- mains of an aurochs, woolly rhino, or other extinct beast. e shermen were disturbed by these hints that things were not always as they are. What they could not explain, they threw back into the sea. Generations later a resourceful amateur pa- leontologist named Dick Mol persuaded the shermen to bring him the bones and note the coordinates of where they had found them. In 1985 one captain brought Mol a beautifully pre- served human jawbone, complete with worn molars. With his friend, fellow amateur Jan Glimmerveen, Mol had the bone radiocarbon- dated. It turned out to be 9,500 years old, mean- ing the individual lived during the Mesolithic period, which in northern Europe began at the end of the last ice age some 12,000 years ago and lasted until the advent of farming 6,000 years later. "We think it comes from a burial," says Glimmerveen. "One that has lain undisturbed since that world vanished beneath the waves, about 8,000 years ago." that vanished land begins with the waning of the ice. Eighteen thousand years ago, the seas around northern Europe were some 400 feet lower than today. Britain was not an island but the uninhabited northwest corner of Europe, and between it and the rest of the continent stretched frozen tundra. As the world warmed and the ice receded, deer, aurochs, and wild boar headed northward and westward. e hunters followed. Coming o the uplands of what is now continental Europe, they found themselves in a vast, low-lying plain. Archaeologists call that vanished plain Dog- gerland, a er the North Sea sandbank and oc- casional shipping hazard Dogger Bank. Once thought of as a largely uninhabited land bridge between modern-day continental Europe and Britain---a place on the way to somewhere else---Doggerland is now believed to have been settled by Mesolithic people, probably in large numbers, until they were forced out of it thou- sands of years later by the relentlessly rising sea. A period of climatic and social upheaval ensued until, by the end of the Mesolithic, Europe had lost a substantial portion of its landmass and looked much as it does today. Many have come to see Doggerland as the key to understanding the Mesolithic in northern When signs of a lost world at the bottom of the North Sea rst began to appear, no one wanted to believe them. is is science writer Laura Spinney's rst story for National Geographic. Robert Clark's photographs of Roman walls appeared in the September 2012 issue.