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Thu Apr 27, 2017, 09:49 PM

The first Brexit: Submerged landscapes of the North Sea and Channel

The first Brexit: Submerged landscapes of the North Sea and Channel

The British Isles split from Europe several thousand years ago. Now, maritime archaeology is revealing a lost landscape on the seafloor

Peter B Campbell

Wednesday 26 April 2017 02.00 EDT


The British Isles separated from the European continent approximately 8,000 years ago. For this Brexit there was no referendum or bus, no Leavers or Remainers, nor was it hard or soft. This was a watery Brexit as rising sea levels filled the Channel and created the North Sea. Maritime archaeology is revealing this submerged landscape that once connected the continent to Britain.

Earth is a dynamic planet that is constantly changing. Going back far enough in time, Britain has been separated from the continent several times as sea levels changed. However, for the study of Homo sapiens it is the change at end of the Pleistocene and the start of the Holocene epoch 11,700 years ago that is most interesting.

Throughout the Pleistocene, sea levels rose and fell in response to climate fluctuations. During cold periods, often known as Ice Ages, glaciers contained a great deal of water, lowering global sea levels. You might not have recognised Europe during these periods with its far larger surface area. It would have been possible to walk from Copenhagen to London on dry land. The North Sea and the English Channel contained a fertile landscape with several large European rivers where the humans lived and hunted. In fact, humans were not the only hominins to reach what became the Isles, but also Homo antecessor, Homo heidelbergensis, and the Neanderthals. At Happisburgh in Norfolk, Homo antecessor footprints dating to 800,000 years ago were found exposed on a beach after a storm.

After the last Ice Age, the Earth began to warm approximately 18,000 years ago and sea levels rose over a hundred meters as the melting glaciers released water into the oceans. This global effect is called eustatic sea level change and the process more or less ended 5,000 years ago. While there is some sea level change due to isostatic movement, tectonic activity, and compression of sediments, it is beginning in this period that the Earth broadly looks as it does today.

More:
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/apr/26/the-first-brexit-submerged-landscapes-of-the-north-sea-and-channel

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Judi Lynn Apr 2017 OP
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Thu Apr 27, 2017, 09:54 PM

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