Europe’s Lost Frontiers – Volume 1 : Context and Methodology

REVIEW BY GEORGE NASH

Due to current climate change, the coastline of north-western Europe is in a state of flux, resulting in the slow but inevitable inundation of the sea. This change in coastline is clearly witnessed by the ongoing disappearance of land along the eastern seaboard of England. The rise will account for around 2m to 3m in global sea level. Compare this with the changes that occurred in north-western Europe following the rapid deterioration and retreat of the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet at the end of the last Ice Age: a rise in sea level of between 70m and 120m resulted in wide sea inundation, by which the British Isles literally become the British Isles by being separated from Continental Europe. This process was underway by 6500 BC (that is, during the Early Holocene), when the region now known as Doggerland  was being submerged beneath the waves of the North Sea. Within a few centuries, the land bridge between eastern England and Europe had been severed. Before this, the landmass extended from the current coastline of south-eastern England to the coastlines of Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.  This landscape was settled by Mesolithic hunter-fisher-gatherers, who fully utilised the available economic resources.  

The eagerly awaited Europe’s Lost Frontiers volume, edited by Vince Gaffney and Simon Finch, reports on the context of Doggerland, and the methods employed to investigate one of the largest submerged landscapes in north-western Europe. 

The book is organised into 16 well-crafted chapters and covers many aspects of the six-year project, including a contextual view of what life was like prior to the disappearance of the landmass, during the Late Upper Palaeolithic and Early Mesolithic times. The body of the book deals with the sampling strategies and mapping of this vast landscape. The sampling from deep-sea cores around the Dogger Bank area of the North Sea allowed for detailed geochemical analysis of the lithography. The mapping of the southern section of the North Sea uncovered a contoured landscape, constructed of valleys and hills, including the north-west/south-east orientation of the Elbe Palaeovalley, a large linear anomaly that was located north of the current estuaries of the Rivers Elbe and Weser.  

Europe’s Lost Frontiers will make a significant contribution to unlocking a forgotten landscape that is the size of Wales and now lies beneath the central and southern sections of the North Sea. With an excellent introductory text from Gaffney and Fitch, the book will appeal to readers who have a keen interest in palaeoenvironmental approaches to reconstructing lost landscapes. Readers should be aware that this book is merely the entrée: the rest of the project, including its significant results on mapping, the palaeoenvironment, its geomorphology, and its archaeological potential, will be served in several forthcoming volumes. 

Europe's Lost Frontiers: Volume 1 
Edited by Vincent Gaffney and Simon Fitch (eds)  Archaeopress,  ¬£45
ISBN 978-1803272689