Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Diver Goes Deeply into Our History

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Diver Goes Deeply into Our History

Article excerpt

When novice diver Penny Spikins took to the sea off a Tyneside beach she found herself plunging 10,000 years back in time.

The Newcastle University archaeologist was learning to dive so that she could take part in a search next year for submerged prehistoric sites in remote areas off the north of Scotland.

But during the training dive off Tynemouth she discovered two Mesolithic - or Stone Age - sites between 5,000 and 10,000 years old.

This is the first evidence of underwater Stone Age hunter-gatherer sites in the British North Sea.

David Miles, chief archaeologist with English Heritage, said: "This is a tremendously exciting discovery. We know that there is a prehistoric Atlantis beneath the North Sea, where once an area equal to the size of present day Britain attached us to the continent and where prehistoric people and animals roamed.

"This discovery by the Newcastle University team gives us a stepping stone into this unknown world."

The earlier of the two sites could go back even further than 10,000 years.

The finds open up dramatic opportunities to explore how our distant ancestors exploited a coastline long since lost to erosion and sea levels which have risen since the last Ice Age.

The sites are less than 500 metres offshore. One was found at the end of a long rocky outcrop which would have been a small cliff face in the Stone Age.

Dr Spikins, who is leading the international underwater research team from the university's school of historical studies, was the first to spot Stone Age arrow and knife blade material, scrapers and flint cores discarded after having been worked.

She said: "It was stunning. It is an undiscovered landscape - an underwater landscape which is new to archaeology. What is amazing is that as you dive further out and deeper, you go back further in time.

"You are at the edge of a reef which is also the edge of an early Mesolithic coastline and you can imagine yourself on that shore."

Dr Spikins, who based her PhD studies on Mesolithic settlement in the North, said that it has been assumed that such underwater sites did exist but were either never likely to be found or had been destroyed by the sea. …

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