What people ate when North Sea was land


Doggerland people, reconstruction

Translated from Historiek.net in the Netherlands:

Archaeologists discover menu of the hunter-gatherers of ‘Doggerland

Editors – November 1, 2016, 15:51

Some 8000 years ago mainly freshwater fish was on the menu of the hunter-gatherers of Doggerland “the drowned landscape between the Netherlands, England and Denmark. This conclude Dutch archaeologists based on isotopic analysis of prehistoric human skeletal remains from the North Sea.

The discovery gives clues about the occupation of this vast landscape drowned in the middle Stone Age (Mesolithic) and the effects of climate change on earlier societies.

Preferring fish

The isotopic study was conducted by the University of Groningen, the National Museum of Antiquities, Stone Foundation and the National Cultural Heritage Authority. It shows that for the Doggerland residents in a period of 4000 years the menu, between 9500 and 6000 BC., gradually changed from mostly meat to mostly fish. Especially freshwater fish was eaten a lot, as well as small animals such as otter, beaver and waterfowl.

The study is based on measurements of stable isotopes. These are variations of atoms having a certain value. The value of some isotopes, such as nitrogen and carbon, changes according to the position in the food chain. A real meat-eater has a different isotopic signature than someone who eats seafood or someone in a fresh water wetland.

The detected change in the composition of the Doggerland menu is associated with the drowning landscape between the Netherlands, England and Denmark, after the last ice age. Between 9500 and 6000 BC. the climate warmed and sea levels rose on average about two meters per century. That is about ten times faster than today.

The low-lying North Sea basin was filled with water. Previously it was thought that this drowning of land and the rising waters forced residents further inland, or forced them to specialize in a marine diet. The isotopic measurements showed that they were eating more fresh water fish. This suggests, according to the researchers, that the people were not scared away, but rather continued to live in the vast wetlands which then arose in the deltas of Meuse, Rhine and Thames. Precisely because it was a nice place and one could find enough food.

Treasury of our coast

The bone material which is used for the isotope analysis is taken from the North Sea. Since the last few years there have been many prehistoric findings there. The material is not only retrieved with fishing nets but is mainly found in the reclaimed sand for coastal defenses and major projects such as the Second Maasvlakte and the Zandmotor. This sand comes from the North Sea floor and contains the remains of a vast and largely unexplored prehistoric landscape. Although research on the spot is awkward, the results show that there is a wealth of data.

Scientists have reconstructed in detail the collapse of the Eurasian ice sheet at the end of the last ice age. The big melt wreaked havoc across the European continent, driving home the original Brexit 10,000 years ago: here.

8 thoughts on “What people ate when North Sea was land

  1. Pingback: Ice age giant deer, what did they eat? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Neanderthals’ complex tools discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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