Lost world revealed by human, Neanderthal relics washed up on North Sea beaches

285 points17
ncmncm11 hours ago

This is fascinating. But I find it extremely odd that they talk only about Doggerland and, in passing, Beringia (connecting Alaska with Siberia) and "archipelagos of Oceania". Meanwhile, they leave unmentioned literally millions of square miles of prime habitat occupied by modern humans for at least 50,000 years before it was inundated, now called Sundaland and Sahul.

Sundaland is now sea between Indonesian islands, reaching up along Vietnam and out to Taiwan (thus not an island), all the way up to Korea (thus not a peninsula). Sahul filled the gap between Australia and New Guinea.

They also leave unmentioned the Persian Gulf and the sea southeast of Pakistan, more thousands of square miles of recent land. The first cities (that we know of) were built immediately upstream from those parcels. Buildings were exposed in the latter parcel before the big recent tsunami, where fishermen's nets have long got snagged.

Knowing that so much of what we think of as prehistory happened in places that are now flooded makes what we call "Atlantis" and "Noah's flood" legends into legitimate oral history. The old question of where the water came from, and went afterward, is answered: from the glaciers, and it's all still there. Australian oral histories record negotiated resolution of conflicts from people obliged to move uphill and crowd into where other people had lived for tens of thousands of years.

There were places the shore moved inland another meter each year, for centuries. Your grandparents' seaside village was always just offshore. It is easy to imagine how stories would have turned that into a dramatic deluge, over subsequent millennia.

simonh45 minutes ago

This is an article about finds from Doggerland, not an article about your favourite flood mono-myth theory, hence a comprehensive discussion of global floods and associated myths is really out of scope and that's why it's not in the article. No confusion required.

We have no reason whatever to link the Atlantis story and the Noah's Flood story the way you do. Not all stories about floods have to be about the same flood. Individual flood myths may well be legitimate oral history, but therefore Atlantis is a non sequitur.

As it happens we do have evidence that oral history can persist stories about events across tens of thousands of years. However we also know that floods are a very common phenomenon for unrelated reasons all over the world even now.

slongfield10 hours ago

My impression of the history of the "Noah's flood" story is that mythologists tend to trace it back to the origin of civilization in the fertile crescent, a historic flood plain.

Specifically, there are very strong parallels between it and the Gilgamesh flood myth:

divbzero6 hours ago

Gilgamesh or Noah’s flood could also be related to the Black Sea deluge hypothesis [1] though the existence and scale of that event is still being debated. On the other side of the planet and more established as fact are the Missoula floods [2] across what is now the Columbia River Gorge.

Altogether, it does not surprise me that tales of great floods appear in cultures across the world. It could well be that they relate to different geological events around the world.



jobu2 hours ago

There was also Lake Agassiz[1] in central North America. An ice sheet collapse in the northeast may have caused a sudden drainage of the lake leading to an estimated 0.8-2.8 meter rise in ocean levels worldwide. It's also believed this dramatic outpouring of freshwater altered the Atlantic ocean currents and caused a climate cooling event about 8,200 years ago[2].



Ccecil5 hours ago

I live in the Purcell trench...where the Missoula floods passed through :)

You can clearly see in some areas where the smaller hills and mountains kinda look like "islands" and we have a very nice aquifer due to it.

And yes...supposedly the native tribes which were in the path all the way down the Columbia have stories about it.

ncmncm4 hours ago

Any that were actually in the path washed out to sea. But anybody within hundreds of miles would have heard it.

The Columbia River Gorge was carved out in two weeks.

ncmncm4 hours ago

The Noah story is very obviously cribbed from Utnapishtim. But that takes us back only 6000 years.The seas started rising 20kya, with bursts in periods up to 8kya, when the Persian gulf river valley finally filled in.

The Flood was a worldwide series of events throughout that time. The Fertile Crescent has been important for barely the last 13,000.

colordrops9 hours ago

That doesn't account for the fact that nearly every major culture and region on earth has a flood myth.

jasonwatkinspdx2 hours ago

The reason for that is banal: the vast majority of humans chose to live near a water source, if not the coast. That's still true today, but was overwhelmingly true in prehistoric times.

dboreham8 hours ago

Curious if we know for sure that every culture doesn't descend in part from inhabitants of the fertile crescent.

colordrops8 hours ago

Humans first arrived in east Asia 2.1 million years ago, and modern humans arrived there at least 80,000 years ago. The fertile crescent civilization formed about 11,000 years ago, and some flood accounts, as well as some geological evidence, date the floods at about 12,000 years ago.

jasonwatkinspdx2 hours ago

The modern humans that went to Asia largely stuck to the cost, and started on that route some millennia earlier than the modern humans that settled the Levant. Pre modern humans took that route far earlier, and there's growing evidence our ancestor and cousin species preceded them on it.

krylon14 hours ago

In passing, the article reveals that in the Netherlands, there is a place called "Monster", and Willy is a woman's name.

But the archaeology is fascinating, too, of course. It is both sad and exciting to think about how much human culture and history has been lost to time, and how there still is out there, waiting to be discovered.

There is an episode of Star Trek TNG where Captain Picard gets neurally linked to an alien probe and gets to experience the life of a person in a civilization that has long since ceased to exist. It is frustrating sometimes how Sci-fi can implant such appealing ideas in our minds that are - AFAIK - scientifically impossible. But how amazing would it be to live for just one day among the mammoth hunters of Doggerland.

Also, this makes me think about what we leave behind for some future explorer to unearth. Maybe we should start creating time capsules, so future archaeologists won't have such a hard time figuring out what life was like back in the 21st century.

RalfWausE2 hours ago

Regarding the time capsules:

I think the best time capsules are the things that are stored somewhere and then simply forgotten. My wife and i we are converting an old barn at the moment to become our new home and just yesterday we discovered in a far off corner of the barn some interesting things: A few prayer books with comments from ancestors of our neighbours (some dates suggest they are from around 1820), a field box of some soldier from WW 1 with some personal belongings... just things you store on your attic and forget about. These are not things somebody thought could be interesting for future generations... but they give a unique glimpse into the lives of people long gone.

BMorearty10 hours ago

I had never seen that episode of Star Trek TNG. Thanks so much for mentioning it. I watched it just now and loved it.

samplatt9 hours ago

It's generally considered one of the best episodes in all of TNG. I've seen a few people mention how Picard was awkward around children prior to this episode but afterwards he wasn't, and it was never elaborated upon, but I'm not sure how true that is.

ekster6 hours ago

Willy can be short for the older style name Willemijn, much like Freddy can be short for the older style name Winnefred in the US.

antiterra5 hours ago

Wilhelmina and Willamina appear to have some resurgence in popularity as baby names in the US, though both are still uncommon. Willie/Willy has been an intuitive nickname for them.

stevenhuang8 hours ago

> neurally linked to an alien probe and gets to experience the life of a person in a civilization that has long since ceased to exist

What exactly about this do you find to be "scientifically impossible"?

krylon3 hours ago

Well, I said "AFAIK". ;-)

koheripbal13 hours ago

The AI that evolves from us within the next hundred(s) years, will likely have a good memory persistence.

Then again, I suppose if it is destroyed by an AI from a neighboring region/galaxy, that too might be lost.

I wonder how many civilizations have been obliterated and forgotten by the AIs they created.

Retric12 hours ago

I don’t see why it’s assumed AI would be overly antagonist. For example without biological needs they might prefer Mercury, Moons, or even Pluto depending on constraints over earth. Similarly computers have great memory persistence, but AI may sacrifice that for increased flexibility.

kbenson10 hours ago

Resource constraints of the universe are rarely at the forefront of the reasoning of entities that live a hundred years or so on the upper end, but if the entity was expected to possibly survive in perpetuity and additional resources could always be used, then everything is a competitor.

That said, I'm not sure the optimal solution arrived at would be to wipe out humanity in that case. Possibly a "wait and see and keep them from getting too big for their britches" strategy might be more rational for an AI, as long as it secures its superiority first.

As for why there's an assumption that AI will be hostile, I think the argument is more along the lines of that we can't know how a super-intelligent AI will think, so there's a chance it will be hostile, and if there's a chance something is world or species ending, it's best to tread carefully. I.e. the safest way to not have problems with the outcome of summoning a demon is to not summon the demon. Or for a more contemporary take, even if you're unsure about whether global climate change is real, the fact that it could be real means the sane thing to do is try to prevent it, because the consequences of being wrong are dire.

Retric9 hours ago

> then everything is a competitor.

Assuming a time horizon of hundreds of millions of years, efficient fusion, bandwidth limited sub FTL communication, and optimum computing substrate being extremely cryogenic then …

Space near stars starts to look toxic. Rather than seeding the universe the goal is to construct an ever larger mega structure in the void as there is no efficient way to transfer the truly enormous amounts of data between structures at least assuming no AI wants to effectively be alone.

Granted start looking hundreds of billions of years into the future and stars look wasteful so destroying them to conserve hydrogen starts to be relevant.

cubano8 hours ago

so in this view I'll ask (with a nod towards Fermi of course)... just where are all these AIs you speak of?

wouldn't these AIs begin to contact and perhaps battle with each other? certainly it seems to me, there would be some tell-tale sign left over from the expected millions of AIs, right?

now of course, it's impossible to tell what super intelligent AIs would choose to do... but I do feel that an extension of Fermi's paradox would be needed with your comment.

brobdingnagians13 hours ago

I'm betting more on the odds of living in the stone age after WWIII than a general AI anytime soon.

saiya-jin13 hours ago

Ah, The Inner Light, s05e25, by many regarded as the best TNG episode ever. I re-watched it recently, still a powerful message. And there is plenty of other quality to choose from...

gibolt12 hours ago

We are closing in on enough storage and cheap cameras to easily store a lifetime from at least one vantage point.

doovd13 hours ago

With climate change etc there probably won't be future archaeologists so :shrug:

medstrom12 hours ago

This is not a chatroom, think twice. Climate change won't kill literally everyone.

steve_adams_8613 hours ago

Maybe they'd be from another solar system.

yarcob15 hours ago

I think the most fascinating, and also frustrating, thing about archaeology is how little we actually know.

We find these tiny fragments, and they tell us something about the past, but every artefact invites a lot more questions than it provides answers.

My late father spent some time researching tattoos and body marks in antiquity. A common pattern that appeared often were 4 dots arranged like the vertices of a rhombus. The pattern appears eg. on terracotta figurines and must have had some significance. But we have no idea what it meant, and all we can do is make wild guesses.

fasteddie3100315 hours ago

The problem is that we cannot use the scientific method to be sure of past events. The correct answer to a lot of anthropology is "We don't know" which is the most scientific explanation. I expect most people have the same expectation of truth across different sciences. It is a difficult concept for many people in my experience that hard physics is more truthful than anthropology, which are both called sciences.

jasonwatkinspdx14 hours ago

I agree about the overall problem, but there are some empirical techniques we can use. Being able to extract and sequence DNA from preserved remains has been revolutionary. It's also amazing what we can do with pollen now. These don't solve the problem of reconstructing pre-historic culture, but they have helped us understand pieces of the picture better. They've been able to discredit some ideas that were widely held in the past.

gpvos14 hours ago

Yes, you can use the scientific method in the historical sciences. There are all kinds of methods that you can use to be more certain about things. (I'm no historian, so I cannot elaborate, sorry.) The level of certainty you can reach may often be different from the exact sciences, but some things can be very certain; no-one is going to deny that Julius Caesar existed, for example.

pomian14 hours ago

And yet the more one learns in any scientific field, finds you answering more and more: "I don't know." The more you learn about anything the more you realize how little you 'know'. Only idiots are left with the certainty they are 'right.'

wanderingstan13 hours ago

“We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.”

John Archibald Wheeler

edgyquant9 hours ago

Or to quote Operation Ivy, “All I know is that I don’t know nothing!” I believe Socrates’ whole schtick was that people don’t know much except for maybe some super specific knowledge and he spent his life making a public spectacle out of proving this.

ethn14 hours ago

You’re not wrong, despite Wittgenstein’s Brown Papers, his criticism of Golden Bough—-people continue to refuse to acknowledge the limits of knowledge.

Here’s an author theorizing on why people go to festivals TODAY, instead of the obvious answer that they’re a fun social game he creates this entire abstract theory about worship and religion.

lrdswrk0014 hours ago

Future humans will say the same thing about us for letting non-God billionaires have disproportionate control of our economic behavior.

“They sat around playing banal number games, trying to manipulate each other’s agency, pointing at some other typical human called “Jeff Bezos”, seeking to get rich like him not realizing he’s actually protected by their consent to then contemporary political arrangements. They played along with all of it!”

The only difference is they’ll probably have a perfect digital record of our acquiescence to laugh at over.

simonh23 minutes ago

We're already, today, looking back at the utter failure of multiple attempts to impose alternative economic models, and the horrific human costs in lives and poverty until they turned back to free market economics to save themselves.

medstrom12 hours ago

"Manipulating each other's agency" is a hell of a description of nonessential economic activity.

dorkwood15 hours ago

Future alien civilizations are going to think the cool S means something.

meepmorp12 hours ago

I'm pretty sure it means not paying attention during class in 1985

gpvos14 hours ago

Huh, never seen that before.

dhosek13 hours ago

You clearly didn't go to high school in the 1980s.

gpvos2 hours ago

I did go to secondary school in the 1980s, but not in the US.

frosted-flakes12 hours ago

It's still a very popular thing for kids to doodle even today.

yellowapple10 hours ago

Or the 1990s, or the 2000s, or the 2010s...

paulrouget6 hours ago
kilroy12315 hours ago

I too feel frustrated that we know so little. One big issue, I've come to realize after visiting so many sites around the world.

A lot of the amazing archaeological sights are in countries that struggle/struggled economically and security wise. (E.g. Iraq, Ethiopia, Turkey, Syria, etc.)

Many sites are destroyed or we simply can't invest the proper time and money. Very frustrating.

exporectomy11 hours ago

But how could it not be that way? No matter how much we can find, there will always be something just a little out of reach or just a little bit getting destroyed. If it was easy to find, it wouldn't be very interesting.

yupper3215 hours ago

I think part of it is that some items/patterns/etc might actually mean absolutely nothing. It might be a dead end even with perfect knowledge.

Some Neanderthal was fucking around with some rocks one day and we look for some meaning in the remains. Was it a tool? Religious artifact? Nope, just Bobby Neander being bored and hitting rocks together into a shape with no meaning.

To be clear, that doesn't mean it's not worth trying to find the meaning if there is one.

chrisco25515 hours ago

Good ole Bobby "Bashrocks" Neander. RIP Bobby.

z3t414 hours ago

Could be birth marks of a king or some famous, so having them was considered high status. See beauty marks

anyfoo12 hours ago

Right, that's the stuff we come up with: Kings, religious ceremonies, symbolism.

And then it turns out (or rather, we never fully figure out) that it just meant that the owner paid that time's equivalent of sales tax on the figurine. And that the "unknown site probably used for ritual purposes" was more akin to that society's DMV, and people spent a lot of time there sitting around being bored until it's their turn at the clerk's station.

I should add that I don't really think that my "sales tax" explanation is in any way more likely in that specific case, but I do wonder if we (as layman, not necessarily archeologists) tend to discard mundane theories a lot. And yet I somehow find how the mundane stuff was handled in ancient times much more interesting then any regal or religious ceremony stuff...

chrisco25512 hours ago

Sure, of course we do. That's what we found when we were finally able to translate old Babylonian tablets. We thought they might be works of literature or important stories. They were basically all contractual agreements and receipts. As a result, we may have to conclude that written language was probably created for business, not for art.

medstrom12 hours ago

In hindsight, this makes a lot of sense. Of course writing was created to keep track of who got paid and who's yet to be paid, who's paid their taxes and who's yet to pay.

grillvogel14 hours ago

and much of what we do "know" is still based purely on speculation but has been repeated enough to be considered truth. consider modern "ironic" appreciation of things, how would that appear to future archaologists?

dalbasal15 hours ago

Wow. Some of these seem highly significant.

EG "Neanderthal flake with birch tar grip - 50kya"

AKAIK, birch tar production has already been attributed to neanderthals, but hafting hasn't yet been. I wonder what kind of tool that is. It doesn't look like a spear point or axehead.

gpvos14 hours ago

Until 31 October 2021 there is an exhibition about Doggerland in the Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden in Leiden.

messo3 hours ago

I can reccomend this exhibition, visited it this summer and it does a good job painting a picture of what life could have been like. Lots of artifacts on display.

WhompingWindows12 hours ago

It's pretty wild to think Belgium/Netherlands/France were connected to Great Britain via a huge swath of land. This means all the cultures intermixed for many generations moving back and forth. It's no wonder we have Stonehenge and all of the ancient cultures in Britain if there was an actual land-bridge to that area!

I wonder if places like Ireland or more of the Scandanavian Islands would've been accessible as well? This doesn't even account for all the other places in the globe that humans may have moved around differently, like in China or India there may be other ancient differences too.

medstrom12 hours ago

I think you're overstating the importance of land bridges. The English Channel is narrow and hunter-gatherers have crossed much greater bodies of water, like in Oceania. Actually, water is essentially a teleportation device: you arrive by slow foot travel to some coast and end up on the opposite coast pretty quickly.

But everything is different when you go to prehistory, it seems hard for us laymen to imagine correctly. A given band of hunter-gatherers would not have travelled far in one generation. And I don't really see why the Stonehenge couldn't have been erected by a culture that had not even met another culture for a hundred generations. Look at the statues of Easter Island (

fleddr11 hours ago

The specific way of stacking massive rocks as seen in Stonehenge (upright with horizontal on top) is spread far and wide across Europe, found in almost every country. Using that exact same "design".

Hardly a coincidence, I'd say.

shkkmo10 hours ago

Agriculture predates stone-henge and the major oceania migrations by quite a bit so "hunter-gatherer" is probably a misnomer in those cases.

As far as we know, land bridges were crucial to major migrations during the time periods this article discuses.

I think you are generally confusing quite different pre-historical periods.

I do think it is quite reasonable to suspect that the ability to cross the english channel predates stonehenge.

medstrom39 minutes ago

The Oceania migrations started 60,000 years ago! Agriculture was experimented with early on in some places, but agricultural civilization with all that comes with it is a different thing. That's taken to have started popping up about 10,000 years ago, but very slowly. It came to Europe with the Indo-Europeans, so about 4,000 years ago, long after Doggerland (submerged 8,500 years ago). Agreed?

ntrz15 hours ago

Is the dredging process stripping a great degree of archaeological context from the items, or has being under the sea for so long already scrambled them up to a degree that we aren't losing all that much information by bringing them up in this way?

I get the impression that modern archaeology tends to emphasize viewing a site holistically and painstakingly recording as many details as possible, to the extent that some sites are just left alone rather than risk an imperfect or destructive excavation, so I'm curious whether anyone in the field is upset that these artifacts are surfacing as a byproduct of an unrelated civic project that isn't even trying to adhere to those standards.

yarcob15 hours ago

Classic archaeology is all about layers. When excavating, a lot of effort is made to determine where one layer starts and where a layer ends. You can often tell eg. by soil color or other hints.

So yes, dredging up the ground destroys all context, and you get finds that are very hard to date (carbon dating and other scientific methods have limited precision if you don't have any reference points)

On the other hand, I guess you take what you can get, and archaeologists often work with finds like that. A farmer might accidentally have dug up some roman coins on their field, or people with metal detectors may find some clothing pins (not sure of the correct english word) or something. These people may also not be eager to tell you where they found it (farmers really don't want excavations on their fields)

timeon1 hour ago

> people with metal detectors may find some clothing pins (not sure of the correct english word) or something. These people may also not be eager to tell you where they found it

And often just sell it straight on black market.

vmh19289 hours ago

Another archeological project based on the spoil from uncontrolled construction excavation of a historical site is The Sifting Project.

BurningFrog15 hours ago

You can also make an argument to wait with the underwater exploration a few decades until better tools have been developed.

macintux13 hours ago

The dredging wasn’t done by the archaeologists. They’re just taking advantage of it.

BurningFrog10 hours ago


I should have read the article before commenting.

soperj15 hours ago

Clothes pins is I think the word you're looking for.

naturalauction15 hours ago

Slightly different but I remember viewing the subways in Athens and seeing the ruins that they had discovered while just digging subways. I know the tube in London has run into similar issues.

In the UK, a lot of archeologists are employed by building companies in order to ensure a new development isn’t on archeologically significant land and that if something is encountered that it is cataloged. There are definitely standards that can be implemented to allow archeology and development to coexist.

JackFr14 hours ago

A friend who’s an archaeology professor told me that’s where the real money is in archaeology. Working as expert to come up with the “nothing historical here - ok to build a mall” report that many municipalities now require.

jimsmart2 hours ago

Article is from early 2020 - would be nice if the year was in the HN title here.

dpeck9 hours ago

There’s a great “In Our Time” episode about this area and the archeology going on around it if you’re interested in a listen

TedDoesntTalk16 hours ago

> MONSTER, THE NETHERLANDS—On a clear, windy autumn afternoon last October

Can I just say how cool it would be to say that I live in a town called Monster?

RalfWausE2 hours ago

If you want it a bit creepier you can live in a village that would roughly translate into "Dwelling of the dead":

. . . .

But as the wikipedia article states: The creepy name derives from an entiry different origin ;-)

jacobriis16 hours ago

Monster doesn't mean monster in Dutch.

31707015 hours ago

It does. Monster is also a dutch word, with the same meaning as the English monster (horrid creature), but can also be used as synonym for "a sample".

In this case, the name of the village probably comes from the same word as the English "Monastry". Other places have the same etymology, e.g. the city Münster in Germany.

schoen2 hours ago

I think the horrid creature meaning and the sample meaning are cognates (both from Latin for 'show', in one case because the sample is made for purposes of showing it to someone, and in the other case because you can't look away, so to speak). (Or because the gods wanted to show you that they were displeased with you, maybe.)

1-more16 hours ago sure it does. Probably not how this town got its name, but it does.

TedDoesntTalk16 hours ago

I figured that. Neither does *UCKING, Austria have the same English meaning:

Bayart15 hours ago

You can write « Fucking », you know.

jhgb15 hours ago

> ... « ... » ...

Pardon your French? ;)

TedDoesntTalk15 hours ago

I did not know. Thank you.

CorrectHorseBat15 hours ago

Yes it does

datameta14 hours ago

> Eventually, that, too, came to an end. On the basis of sediments and computer models, researchers think a tsunami originating off modern-day Norway around 6150 B.C.E. devastated Doggerland with waves at least 10 meters high. Soon the landscape vanished as global sea levels continued to rise.

Ah, another explanation for one of the many "Great Flood" myths.

skyde15 hours ago

if i was at the beach and found one of those "artefact" there is no way I would they they are important or old.

Can someone explain how to easily know if what you are looking at is important or not.

mod14 hours ago

Stone tools worked by humans are all important. It's not easy to distinguish Neanderthal from ours, or anything like that, or modern from ancient, but it's vastly more likely you'll find an ancient stone tool than a modern version. Very few people are making them, and even fewer are leaving them out on the ground.

ncmncm11 hours ago

No natural process chips off flakes right next to one another, all along the edge, or both edges, or both sides of an edge, of a stone. Anytime you find a stone like that, it's an artifact.

A rock with just one chip generally needs evidence of a habitation or other activity to identify it.

There is a site in southern England where somebody found a whole pile of chips, and fitted them all together showing the missing space left over had been a spear point.

lalos12 hours ago

Reminds me of Gobekli Tepe which is also ~10K old evidence of human lost worlds

fernly12 hours ago

Off topic, DAE find that drop-down Science Mag "eyelid" banner extremely annoying? I see it both here and on the In The Pipeline blog[1] I often read. Is there a browser extension that will kill such things?


rand0mx16 hours ago

remove using ublock origin

taejo1 hour ago

or Hide Fixed Elements for a one-click solution

shoto_io14 hours ago

It’s amazing that just 10k years ago England was part of continental Europe… I wonder if people back then were worried about climate change too.

pomian13 hours ago

Well, they lost their land bridge. At some point they had to say farewell to their relatives across the water. It probably didn't happen all at once. It just got harder every year to make it across. Then one year, that low low tide, didn't happen. Makes you imagine all sorts of adventures and stories related to 'the crossing'.

shoto_io13 hours ago

Absolutely. Sounds like great material for a novel.

emmelaich13 hours ago

You might like Helliconia by Brian Aldiss.

lovemenot13 hours ago

It's hard to say whether this or the more recent Brexit was the more damaging.

gpvos15 hours ago