Fishing for Fossils in the North Sea: The Lost World of Doggerland

A large leg bone of a mammoth comes up with a load a fish in the North Sea.

A large leg bone of a mammoth comes up with a load a fish and other debris from the floor of the North Sea.

Imagine trawling for fish and when you pull up your nets you find a massive bone or a huge tooth along with your catch.  For over 100 years fishermen in the North Sea between Britain and Denmark have found such items in their nets but it wasn’t until the 1980s that their value, monetarily and scientifically, was finally appreciated.  Trawlers are now careful to keep their catch of fossils and have been able to sell them to fossil traders providing a new revenue stream for their excursions. 

By recording the locations of their finds and allowing scientists to make observations before many are sold to collectors, much has been learned about the fauna that once roamed the land that now lies 30 to 150 feet below the North Sea waters.

A portion of a mammoth tooth obtained from North Sea seadbed and sold on-line.  Partially fossilized mammoth teeth are found in abundance here and are also available from many other sources as well.

A portion of a mammoth tooth obtained from North Sea seabed and sold on-line. Partially fossilized mammoth teeth are found in abundance here and are also available from many other sources as well.

This fossil catch has yielded over 200 tons of fossil bones and over 15,000 mammoth teeth.   The bones include remains of mammoths, of three different species of woolly rhinos, hippos, lions, bears, wild horses, bison, elk, reindeer, hyenas, wolves and Sabre tooth cats of at least two species.   This is evidence that a whole community of animals that we have come to know as ice age fauna must have once resided here.

The skull of a mammoth is loaded on board a fishing vessel on the North Sea

The skull of a mammoth is loaded on board a fishing vessel on the North Sea

Given the number of fossils that have been pulled up in chance encounters with fishermen’s nets it has been estimated that there must be millions of animal remains preserved in the sediments just under the bottom of the North Sea.  The cold temperatures and low oxygen levels in the sediments have preserved these bones in remarkably good condition despite having been there for 8000 to 40,000 years.

Doggerland: A land bridge between Great Britain, France and the Netherlands.  

doggerland-mapThe southern portion of this region under the North Sea has been given a name: Doggerland.  It is the land that used to connect the British Isles to Europe and during the last ice age is thought to have been equivalent to the Serengeti of Europe, albeit with a much colder climate.

You may have seen reports of the discovery of the “British Atlantis” circulating the web in the past few years.   Those stories seem to have been sparked by a new display of recent research at the Royal Society and this article which has some good images.   Briefly, the fossils that have been found along with cores of the sediments provides indisputable evidence that the area between Great Britain and western Europe used to be dry land that was inhabited by a community of ice-age animals and plants.

How Doggerland existed above sea level in the past is quite clear:  during the maximum extent of ice during the last ice age the worlds oceans were 350 to 400 feet lower than they are today.  As a result, large sections of continental shelf, which today are covered by shallow seas,  would have been dry ground.

Map showing some research sites on and around Great Britain but most importantly showing what area (in red) would have been above sea level during the last Ice Age when sea levels were 350 to 400 feet lower than they are today. (Image from the article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2167731/Britains-Atlantis-North-sea–huge-undersea-kingdom-swamped-tsunami-5-500-years-ago.html)

Evidence of Past Human Occupation?

A portion of a Neanderthal skull was retrieved from the sea floor and bones with stone tool butchery marks have also been identified. In addition some stone implements including spears and axes made from antlers of extinct animals have been retrieved (see article from Nature with more details).  This suggests that at least Neanderthals inhabited this land but it is very likely that there were many modern humans in this region prior to its being inundated. There are ongoing investigations which aim to explore a number of Doggerland sites such as some mounds that suggest the possibility of human settlements. 

The History of Doggerland

Cores from the soils underlying the sands deposited in the English Channel suggest swamps and hills with vegetation that was very much like the rest of Europe during the Ice Age.   The land was cold and probably nearly treeless like Britain at the height of the Ice Age (20,000 years by conventional dating) and then as the world warmed Doggerland would have filled with vegetation and ice age animals very quickly.  But not long after becoming habitable as sea levels continued to rise dramatically over several thousand years, Doggerland was flooded.  By 8500 years ago or so nearly this entire region would have been submerged and the coastlines of modern Britain nearly established.   Part of the problem in describing the former geography and biota of this area is that when this land was gradually reclaimed by the ocean it would have been eroded in many areas removing evidence of what it was like.  Now that the water is hundreds of feet deep in most places new sediments have been deposited on much of the area also obscuring the past.   Various forms of radar and scans are allowing the subsurface layers to be examined and cores from oil drilling have also revealed more artifacts that allow for this new picture of what it was like in Doggerland long ago.

Creationism and Doggerland?

Since 2012 when the story broke until now I have found only one mention of Doggerland in the young earth creationist’s literature.  That was by Brian Thomas at ICR (Making Sense of Britain’s Atlantis). In that article Thomas provided exactly the response I predicted when I first wrote about this story: He says that during the Ice Age after the Flood people migrated to this land and then were covered by the ocean a few hundred years later.

Creationist’s believe there was an Ice Age after the global flood so theoretically people could have lived there a short time before being displaced.  The evidence of what sorts of plants and animals lived there (mastodons and other ice-age mammals) and the lack of technology (stone tools only!) by the first human inhabitants raises persistent questions that are either ignored or poorly addressed in the creation literature.  Doggerland, in particular, raises an interesting historical phenomena that is not well appreciated:  dramatic sea level change and its effects globally on human populations.

Generalized coast of Florida during the Ice Age. If the water was just 50 feet lower it would almost double the area from this to the east. There are many Clovis-Indian and other very ancient Indian sites found under 100+ feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico in areas that would have been dry land during the height of the last ice age.

Past sea levels were 300 to 400 feet below their current levels.  As a result, the shape of the earth’s continents would have been very different in the past.   If people living during the Ice Age had any dependence on the sea for their livelihood (fish, birds or mammals associated with seashores) they would have very likely lived in places that today are longer above sea level.   The fact is that a large number of former human occupations sites have been drowned by global sea rise.   In the case of Doggerland we may yet find some evidence left over of people s existence but most of these former occupations sites are lost to history.

However there are places were we have direct evidence of former human occupation in drowned lands. For example, one place we are certain that people lived that is now below sea level can be found off the coast of Florida.   There are numerous Native American occupation sites that have been identified in the Gulf of Mexico that were above sea level during the last Ice Age.  These sites provide us with clear a clear picture of the timing of human dispersal around the globe.

The Ice Age and Human Migration:  A challenge for young earth creationism

Lets explore the implications of these two locations on the model creationists have proposed for human dispersal patterns after the flood.   Obviously for YECs, the global flood was an extreme bottleneck for human populations (Down to 8 people!).  What is less often recognized is that most young earth creationists believe there was a second restriction on human migration and repopulation after a global flood.  This is the Tower of Babel bottleneck.   Their interpretation of Tower of Babel narrative in Genesis 11 is that “all” mankind was present at the Tower of Babel and so any evidence of populations of people anywhere else must be evidence of man’s dispersal following the gathering at the Tower of Babel.

When did that occur?  This is not clear from Scriptures but most creationists believe the tower incident to have occurred from 150 to 400 years after the Flood which was about 4350 years before present.   As a result, the Egyptian, Chinese, native American etc.. timelines must all have their starting point after this event.  So it isn’t just that people spread over the earth after the Flood but only after Babel which shortens the total time for human dispersal a few hundred more years which is not insignificant if you believe all human populations on earth today developed in less than 4350 years.

You might have already surmised that the occupation of Doggerland and Florida continental shelves creates some significant challenges for the young-earth chronology of Earth.  Furthermore, young earth creationists believe a single Ice Age occurred after the Flood reaching its maximum extend within 400-500 years. Then they claim that within 200 years the ice all melted restoring sea levels close to current levels.

If we consider the date of the Tower of Babel (150-400 years) and the Ice Age (400-500) it should be obvious that the young-earth creationist has a problem.  Human migration must have been incredibly quick!     For example, for Doggerland to become inhabited by people, they would have had to have left Babel in the mid-east then walked as fast as they could north to arrive in Doggerland just before the entire land was submerged by rising seas from the rapidly melting Ice Age glaciers.

In the YEC shortened chronology, not only did humans have to find their way to Doggerland but the animal and plant communities had to establish themselves in a short period of time.  However, pollen from sediment cores paints a picture from the peak of the ice age of a region that was not a lush green valley with abundant wildlife but rather quite tundra like.  Only after establishing that tundra did the environment gradually change–probably over a few thousand years–to the peat bogs and developed vegetation that would have drawn more animals and even people.   There is no time in the YEC chronology for the development of multiple communities because they have the Ice Age ending so abruptly that there would be no time for this development.

I expect this time frame for human dispersal to Great Britain from the Middle East won’t seem impossible to some devoted to YEC chronology.  However, let’s look at the case of the native Floridians.   According to the creationists time-frame—an Ice Age lasting only a few hundred years—most of what was Florida  was only eligible for human habitation for a very short period of time right after the Flood.  In this case how could remains of human habitation be found below the waters of gulf of Mexico?   Human dispersal from Babel must have been incredibly fast.    Humans would have had to have left Babel traveled across Asia to the land bridge between Asia and North America in what is Alaska today.  They then had to come across this land bridge during the time of the Ice Age and then make their way all the way across North America to Florida where they established communities just in time for the ocean to rise and cover them all.  By most flood geology estimates of Babel and the events of the Ice Age, these people only had 100 to 250 years to make this great migration and complete their community development.   This is some incredible dispersal ability!  When the Tower of Babel restriction is combined with evidence around the world of submerged populations we see that the flood geology model effectively has the entire globe being populated by people in just a few hundred years.  Remember, we are not just talking about a couple of people here and there but rather large populations and fully established sites of occupation.

Of course this is very different from the conventional picture of human dispersal that has been drawn by anthropologists.   North and South America are portrayed as having been the last places that were discovered by early man, possibly arriving as early as early as 20,000 years ago at the maximum extent of the Ice Age.   But in other places in the world, evidence of human occupation is found well before the last Ice Age.  The evidence of humans under the Toba super volcano ash layer in India (The Toba Super-Eruption: A Non-Flood Catastrophe) were deposited well before the last Ice Age providing proof that people dispersed over that area long before that time.

This evidence makes no sense in light of creationist’  flood geology models of earth’s history.   The flood model also, by necessity, compresses all evidence of people groups from the past into populations living together as nearly contemporaries rather than displacing each other over time.  This would include Neanderthals, ‘the hobbit”, cro-magnons man etc…   In North America there is evidence of hundreds of unique native american cultures many of which are very old but in the flood geology model all these hundreds of groups only lived within a few thousand years and so must have overlapped to a great extent.

Conclusion:

The discovery of the submerged lost world of Doggerland is a fascinating.  Like all evidence of early man the timeline for when this land was inhabited is greatly compressed by creationists because of their requirement that the entire Earth history be compressed into a time after a global flood 4350 years ago. This results in the need to propose ultra-fast dispersal of people over the entire earth while at the same time they experienced rapid cultural evolution.  There are a multitude of problems this hypothesis creates when the evidence of human remains is examined.


Revised and updated: 10/19/2018

Comments

  1. The Bible says nothing about sea levels once being much LOWER – only much HIGHER

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  2. Paul Edwards says:

    Well, bible or no bible its obvious that at the end of the last ice age the sea level rose by over 300ft. And it looks like its starting to happen again too albeit on a smaller scale thanks to global warming.
    Obvioulsy this is where all the stories of global deluge come from including – but not exclusive to – the bible.

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  3. Ice free corridors of Europe ive never heard discussed. Just in N America to support Asians colonizing N America. Cro msg on man came from somewhere. Has anyone considered doggereland may have been above sea level for a much longer geological period? Isostatic rebound would compress a low laying boggy area higher and longer than thought

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  4. There is now evidence of human constructed animal traps in areas of Lake Huron that have been under water for 9K years or so. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4024857/

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  5. The reason that you can’t fit the world’s population into 4400 years since the 2400 BC Flood, is because the dating of these submerged items are colored by your Darwinian premises based on
    1. The “geological column” and “geological timescale” which are dated by the key fossils which are dated by the layers which are dated by the key fossils, etc. ad infitinitum (circular reasoning)
    2. Your wrong (though popular) dating of the unique ice age, which actually took place after the Flood until 1500 BC, when the hotter oceans had cooled, stopped evaporation, which halted the snows (ice caps) and Sahel rains, when the melting of the land ice caps raised the global sea level by 125 M. (300 ft) submerging Bronze Age Atlantis, Land of Mu, Sunda land, Dwaraka ( as witnessed by Arjuna in the Mahabaratha), Doggerland, and many submerged islands, port cities, towns, ruins, etc. And so you see how your paradigm dictates very ancient (10-30-80.000 yr. old) ice ages and Neanderthalers, cavemen, hunter gatherer, agriculturalist “evolution” There was no pre-history, only pre-Flood history with the 10 legendary kings, universally acknowledged by many civilisations (e.g. Sumerian kinglist), the many historical instances of the eight survivors, like our Chinese 3 Huang 5 Di (=8 incl. Nuwa (Noah), Fuxi, Shen Nong), Sumerian Oannes with his friends (8), Indian MaNu with his 7 Rishis (8), and the Egyptian Ogdoad (Octo=8), etc, Southern China Miao people, Manu & wife, Lo Shen, lo Han, Yaphu, plus 3 wives (8), Draividian-Indian Satyavratha with 3 sons Sharma, Harma, and Yaphethi (plus 4 wives=8) , Hebrew Noah, Shem, Ham, Yapheth & wives (8), all 8 of whom were Flood survivors! Not to mention the over 700 other flood legends worldwide. See your paradigm dictates your dating and conclusions, as ours do as well. But we have documentary evidence from many ancient sources. If you are interested in learning about them visit our www. ancientpatriarchs.wordpress.com site, where Euhemerism and Grand Diffusionism are not pejoratives like in Wicked Pedia, but honorable empirical science, going where the evidence leads us.
    Have a good paradigm shift and a great day, gentlemen.
    PS: The much maligned (by Darwinians) Oera Linda Bok, Annals of Clonmacnoise, REAL British History by Geoffrey Monmouth, and may other interesting ancient chronicles also have king-lists going back all the way to Yapeth and his father Noah. Come over and see. You might enjoy REAL history for once, even though it is not taught anymore in politically correct Marxist Elite (qu)academia. :-)
    Love & Peace
    Lu
    Taiwan.

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    • thanks for you reaction to my article. Readers can use the link to your article and compare models for how to explain Doggerland for themselves. I encourage you to read other articles on my site. If you do I believe you will find evidence that your assertions about my assumptions and ability to understand the ramifications of interpretive frameworks are not well founded.

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      • If NOT Darwinian assumptions, then HOW do you explain your 8.000 to 40.000 Darwinian dating of the Bronze Age Dogger bones?
        Yea be yea, nay be nay!

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