The idea of a “lost Atlantis” under the North Sea connecting Britain to continental Europe was envisioned by HG Wells in the late 19th century, but it wasn't until 1931 that evidence of human inhabitation first emerged, when a trawler dredged up a lump of earth containing a spear head.
Today, of course, we all understand that at the end of the last Ice Age, about 8,000 years ago, sea levels rose dramatically, submerging the area known as Doggerland and cutting the British Isles off from modern Belgium, the Netherlands and southern Scandinavia.
Decades of work in the Netherlands constructing sea walls and manmade beaches from material dredged from the sea (to protect the modern coastline from the impact of the rising seas), has provided a trove of otherwise inaccessible treasures from a world inhabited for a million years by modern humans, Neanderthals and even older hominids known has Homo antecessor.
Indeed, over the years so many artefacts and bones have been unearthed Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (National Museum of Antiquities) in Leiden, southern Holland, is now able to mount a significant exhibition, called Doggerland: Lost World in the North Sea.
“We have a wonderful community of amateur archaeologists who almost daily walk these beaches and look for the fossils and artefacts, and we work with them to analyse and study them,” said Dr. Van der Vaart-Verschoof, assistant curator of the museum’s prehistory department. “It is open to everyone, and anyone could find a hand axe, for example. Pretty much the entire toolkit that would have been used has been found by amateur archaeologists.”
The exhibition will showcase more than 200 objects, ranging from a deer bone in which an arrowhead is embedded, and fossils such as petrified hyena droppings and mammoth molars, to a fragment of a skull of a young male Neanderthal.
A virtual tour of the exhibition, which will be physically available to visit until 31 October, can be viewed on the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden’s YouTube channel
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