Geoscientists from UK institutions including the University of St. Andrews and the University of Bradford are set to work on unravelling the mysteries surrounding what may be considered Atlantis, or an ancient landscape tucked beneath the North Sea.

In the past, a country about the size of Ireland, called Doggerland, had sunk down the sea as climate change ensued following the last Ice Age. To add to that, the sea levels continuously rose, causing the land to completely settle beneath the ocean. The team of experts for the new project will be composed of geologists, computer scientists and molecular biologist, who will work together to re-establish the said prehistoric country through digital reconstruction.

The project will be headed by geologists from the University of Bradford, who will oversee the entire team as they utilize computing systems and modern genetics to propagate populations digitally. They will also monitor the development of the land to obtain insights into the manner with which early people have switched from hunting to farming for food.

Through the use of advanced technologies such as DNA and agent-based modelling from important samples, as well as the incorporation of wide-scope seismic information, the scientists may be able to discover the environmental sequential events in the past to reveal key periods in history, says Dr Richard Bates from the University of St Andrews. With this, an emergent approach for examining offshore and land archaeology may rise, revolutionizing the methods of archaeological probing.

The researchers will get the help of energy firms, which create the widespread remote sensing information needed for the reconstruction of the previous land. With this, the scientists will be provided with a 3D map that will showcase the lost lakes, rivers, hills and coastlines of the country.

Survey ships will also be placed to retrieve core sediment specimens from the chosen locations of the landscape. Through this samples, the researchers will be able to obtain millions of DNA debris of plants and animals that lived in the coastal lands of ancient Europe. Due to the cold environment under the water, the DNA is said to have been preserved well and thus, may provide valuable insights into how the communities changed as climate change approached.

The researchers will then combine the data they have obtained from the maps and the sedimentary specimen DNA, and incorporate them within computer simulations. The end goal is to build a detailed model of the landscape, showcasing the interactive mechanisms between people, animals and plants that occupied the space for about 5,000 years.

While many experts are aware that the country had been lost to climate change and sea level rise, tools to investigate thoroughly have been lacking, says Vince Gaffney, the leader of the project from the University of Bradford. Now, the European Research Council has granted a hefty €2.5 million or about $2.8 million to the team to further the information currently available about the lifestyles of humans some 7,500 years ago.

Photo: Michiel Jelijs | Flickr

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