[In Our Time] Doggerland


27/06/2019 by BBC Radio 4

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=74508755
Episode: http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/mediaselector/6/redir/version/2.0/mediaset/audio-nondrm-download/proto/http/vpid/p07f9vmd.mp3

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the people, plants and animals once living on land now under the North Sea, now called Doggerland after Dogger Bank, inhabited up to c7000BC or roughly 3000 years before the beginnings of Stonehenge. There are traces of this landscape at low tide, such as the tree stumps at Redcar (above); yet more is being learned from diving and seismic surveys which are building a picture of an ideal environment for humans to hunt and gather, with rivers and wooded hills. Rising seas submerged this land as glaciers melted, and the people and animals who lived there moved to higher ground, with the coasts of modern-day Britain on one side and Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and France on the other.


Vince Gaffney
Anniversary Professor of Landscape Archaeology at the University of Bradford

Carol Cotterill
Marine Geoscientist at the British Geological Survey


Rachel Bynoe
Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Southampton

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Listen date: 2019-09-10


  • Maybe I’m just wilfully reading subtext into everything, but was this episode meant to be tongue-in-cheek about Brexit? All the references to walking from Edinburgh to Oslo over a sea of ice made me think that they were trying to drop hints about how the first Brexit was brought about by the end of the ice age.
  • They had one Mesolithic (8000 years ago) specialist and one Paleolithic (200000 years ago) specialist, and since they were taking it in turns to talk, keeping the eras separate in my head became difficult.
  • I learned: there used to be rhinos and hippos in northern Europe!
  • I also learned about the Mikkelberg axe, except I can’t find a single reference to it online with that spelling. There’s this, though: the Mesolithic tranchet axe. Maybe it’s this: Michelsberg Culture.
  • The Selective Amnesia blog, now sadly offline, had a post about how Chennai’s Metro construction could lead to a massive destruction of archaeological artifacts if left to its own devices, but could bring about archaeological discoveries if done right. I don’t think it was done right, in the event; but this episode talking about how the development of oil rigs and wind farms led to energy companies paying for seismic data that archaeologists and geologists could then study for free reminded me of that post.
  • One major shift of perspective this episode brought about was by pointing out that since the Doggerland would have been much more productive, and much more attractive as a living site, the stone age archaeological sites excavated in what is now British land represent the hinterland, while the truly major settlements are somewhere under the North Sea. A genuine Streetlight Effect at play, I think.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s