|Dolphin lumbar vertebrae, North Sea (12 cm)|
|Brown Bank, North Sea, Pleistocene Dredging Area|
It has long been suspected that the southern North Sea plain may have been home to thousands of people, and chance finds by fishermen over many decades support this theory.
A concentration of archaeological material, including worked bone, stone and human remains, has been found within the area around the Brown Bank, roughly 100 km due east from Great Yarmouth and 80 km west of the Dutch coast. The quantities of material strongly suggest the presence of a prehistoric settlement. As such the Brown Bank provides archaeologists with a unique opportunity to locate a prehistoric settlement in the deeper and more remote areas of the North Sea, known today as Doggerland.
Until sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age, between 8-10,000 years ago, an area of land connected Great Britain to Scandinavia and the continent. It has long been suspected that the southern North Sea plain was home to thousands of people, and chance finds by fishermen over many decades support this theory.
Prospecting for such a settlement within the North Sea is a challenging activity. Multiple utilities cross the area, bad weather is frequent, and visibility underwater is often limited. Given these challenging conditions, researchers on the Belgian vessel, RV Belgica, used acoustic techniques and physical sampling of the seabed to unravel the topography and history of 3 areas chosen for the survey.
During the survey, the team used a novel parametric echosounder from the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ). This uses sonar technology to obtain images of the sub-bottom with the highest possible resolution and was combined with the more traditional “sparker” seismic source to explore deeper sediments. On the Brown Bank, the Belgica also deployed a grab and a Gilson dredge for sampling near-surface stratigraphy. Video footage was collated using VLIZ’s dedicated video frame and a simpler GoPro mounted on the Gilson dredge. A video showing the equipment in operation on the expedition can be seen at https://youtu.be/sGKfyrDCtmw
Additional reading: http://www.vliz.be/en/press-release/update-research-prehistoric-settlements-North-Sea