Archaeologists from the University of Bradford are using magnetometry to detect ancient European settlements buried beneath the North Sea, specifically focusing on Doggerland, a landmass that once connected mainland Europe to Great Britain.
Data gathered by oil companies drilling in the North Sea has aided in the study of Doggerland, but wind farms have become competitors for the same resources.
The researchers hope that anomalies in magnetic fields can indicate the presence of ancient remains, allowing them to gather data without the need for underwater diving.
This will be one of the few attempts to use magnetometry to examine an underwater landscape.
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Magnetometry has been primarily used by terrestrial archaeologists and has the potential to uncover information about Doggerland’s resource-rich and ecologically diverse regions from approximately 20,000 BCE – 4,000 BCE.
Small changes in the magnetic field could indicate changes in the landscape, such as peat-forming areas and sediments, erosion, and river channels.
The artifacts discovered thus far have been found mostly by chance, leaving knowledge of Doggerland’s ancient inhabitants elusive.
The presence of middens, consisting of animal bones, mollusk shells, and other biological material, could reveal how people lived in the area.
Researchers are working with climate scientists and engineers to gather as much data as possible before parts of Doggerland become inaccessible due to offshore wind farming.
The United Kingdom, along with other nations, pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and offshore wind power is a part of this initiative.
Ph.D. student Ben Urmston is leading the study, and he and his colleagues hope to uncover evidence of hunter-gatherer activity.
The research method Urmston is using could help to uncover evidence of human activity in Doggerland, which was buried at the bottom of the ocean due to global warming that marked the end of the last ice age.