The last Ice age ended slowly, gradually, the ice melting drip by drip, sometimes refreezing for a while. It took a long time from the glacial maximum, about 25,000 years ago to some 8,000 years ago, when the Laurentian Ice Sheet of North America was gone and global sea levels had risen to about where they are today.
There is the decorative stuff, art that is an improvement on the bare painted wall, a pleasurable comfort in the home. There is art that demonstrates skill, technique and craftsmanship, that combination of innate ability, training be practice, which stops the audience saying "I could do that". And then there is art with a message, a story to tell, inspiration to offer, a purpose to which both decoration and craft are subordinate.
Doggerland is a place, real in space, mediated by time, conceptualised by the mind. Archaeology reveals glimpses of the past 10,000 years of human experience between what is now Denmark And Britain, but with no physical artifacts from the future the artists may take up the challenge of revealing the unknown. What will be humanity's experience of the Upper Anthropocene when all the ice has melted?
Our invitation is to place yourself at the midpoint of a timeline that stretches 10,000 years backwards and 10,000 years forward. From the basis of a few bones and stones, archaeology has built the Mesolithic landscape, a vast plain of undulating lowlands, lakes, rivers, estuaries and coastlines, providing a resource-rich homeland for our ancestors. The details are unknown but here science gives way to art's creativity, telling stories in words and pictures of an imagined past.
And so too with the coming millennia. We lack the physical artifacts from the future but climate science points to the inevitability of ice melt and sea level rise, the Grater North Sea drowning the lowlands of continental Europe and, of course, the Lincolnshire Marsh.
Here we call upon the artists to fill the voids left by science's uncertainties. Creativity and imagination must be employed to tell the stories and paint the pictures of the Upper Anthropocene, that geological division after the ice has melted, the seas have risen and a heated world has left much of the sub-tropical deserts uninhabited and forced humanity's poleward migration.
The Deep Time Walk takes a look back through 4.6 bilion years of Earth history but our story has a future too. We embed ourselves in deep time, stretching both ways, into the past and the future.
Robert Macfarlane, in his book Underland, explores the idea.
Deep time as a radical perspective, should provoke us to action not apathy. For to think in deep time can be a means not of escaping our troubled present, but rather of re-imagining it; countermanding its quick greeds and furies with older, slower stories of making and unmaking. At its best, a deep time awareness might help us see ourselves as part of a web of gift, inheritance and legacy stretching over millions of years past and millions to come, bringing us to consider what we are leaving behind for the epochs and beings that will follow us.
When viewed in deep time, things come alive that seemed inert. New responsibilities declare themselves. A conviviality of being leaps to mind and eye. The world becomes eerily various and vibrant again. Ice breathe, Rock has tides, Mountains ebb and flow. Stone pulses. We live on a restless Earth.
The Anthropocene compels us to think forwards in deep time, and to weigh what we leave behind, as the landscapes we are making now will sink into strata, becoming underlands. What is the history of things to come? What will be our future fossils? As we have amplified our ability to shape the world, so we become more responsible for the long afterlives of that shaping. The Antropocene asks of us the question memorably posed by the immunologist Jonas Salk: ‘Are we being good ancestors?’
But to think ahead in deep time runs against the mind’s grain, Try it yourself, now. Imagine forwards a year. Now ten. Now a century. Imagine falters, details thin out. Try a thousand years. Mist descends. Beyond a hundred years even generating a basic scenario for individual life or society becomes difficult, let alone extending compassion across much greater reaches of time towards the unborn inhabitants of worlds-to-be. As a species, we have proved to be good historians but poor futurologists.
This project is currently in an early stage of planning and your thoughts, ideas, inputs and general creative genius are welcome. We are a community arts company, seeking to use the arts to address environmental issues, and you are that community. Please join in.
Our plans involve the intersection between three areas, the archaeology of post-Ice Age North Sea Basin, the future several millenia of the region under global heating, and the response to the human story by artists and writers. If you are, or are interested in, archaeology, climate science or the arts, this project may be for you.
Our Doggerland project has no fixed agenda; all are welcome to contribute ideas and artworks. Whether you are a professional artist, a student, an amateur or just wondering whether you might try to create something, you are welcome to join in. We intend to publish a book, hold a simposium and stage an exhibition including all your works in the autumn of 2020.
Interested? Just drop us an email.
The geography about 10,000 years ago, from Julia Blackburn, Timesong.
The Time and Tide Bell takes a liminal position, occupying that space, undefined, neither land nor sea, and marks the temporal threshold between the Holocene and Anthropocene, the geological epoch gone, of post-glacial climatic amelioration and relative stability, and the epoch of future climate breakdown, the result of anthropogenic global heating. The Bell sounds, with rising tides, a warning of sea level change, as the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets melt. The subliminal forcing of global temperature by greenhouse gasses to a new equilibrium will eventually bury the Bell under new marine sediments as the Lincolnshire Marsh becomes inundated once more by the waters of the Greater North Sea. Some may like to view the Bell as a votive offering, deposited without the intention of recovery or use, in a sacred place. Our Time and Tide Bell will not be deliberately discarded but the inevitable rise in sea level in coming centuries may force the issue.
The history of our coastline tells of the complex interplay of sea and land. Changes in sea level come about through change in the volume of water in the oceans, the rising and falling of the rocks of the land and through erosion of and deposition upon those rocks. During ice ages, the water of the oceans is locked up in ice caps and sea level falls. The weight of ice pushes down upon the land causing the crustal rocks to sink lower into the Earth’s mantle below. They bounce back up when the ice weight is relieved on melting, but this isostatic rebound is a slow process, taking thousands of years, much slower than the immediate rise in sea level that comes with ice melt as an interglacial period is entered.
The centre of relative uplift is over central Scotland reflecting the continuing impact of glacial isostatic adjustment. Rather than a simple pattern, there are three centres of relative subsidence: over southwest England, the southern North Sea, and the Shetland Isles. The picture is complicated by the ocean load on the Atlantic basin and on the continental shelf and the glacial isostatic effect of the Scandinavian ice sheets. After unloading, the isostatic recovery is rapid at first but the rate of uplift decays exponentially. As a result, 10 000 years since the ice left, the central Scottish coast is still rising at about 1 mm per year, perhaps a tenth of earlier rates, while the Lincolnshire Coast is falling, relative to sea level at a rate of about 0.5 mm per year. These rates would have been much faster in the past. To this must now be added the recent sea-level rise of global warming of over 3 mm per year, a rate which may become much faster in the future as thermal expansion is superseded by glacier melting, which releases ever larger volumes of water to the oceans. We should prepare for two metres of sea-level rise over the next hundred years and more beyond.
There are also local effects. In the intertidal zone, marine silts can accumulate, storm beaches and wind-blown sand dunes can protect low lying areas inland that can then accumulate peat deposits. When close to sea level, even small changes such as those produced by sediment consolidation, can have significant effects on local geography.
A hundred thousand years ago, during the Ipswichian Interglacial, the Lincolnshire coast was at the foot of chalk cliffs, now the eastern edge of Wolds. As the Devensian Ice Age set in, sea level dropped, leaving dry land, 'Doggerland', across to Denmark. The ice had repeatedly advanced and retreated, leaving moraines and meltwater deposits on the Lincolnshire Marsh and offshore, until the final retreat and warmer conditions allowed the growth of forests in the Boreal Period. Global sea level (the eustatic change) rose some 130 metres between the maximum of the Devensian glaciation, some 18 000 years ago and about 8000 years ago. In Scotland the isostatic rebound was about twice the eustatic change but that was not the case for Lincolnshire.
Doggerland connected Lincolnshire to continental Europe with a vast low-lying landscape that provided a homeland to the Mesolithic peoples. There were great river estuaries and marshlands. The Silver Pit, an area of deep water to the south of the present Dogger Banks, must have been a lake in a basin deepened by glacial erosion. Gradually, in human timescales, the North Sea spread southwards after around 10000 BP. The English Channel flooded around 8000 BP. The Dogger Bank was submerged about 8700 years ago with the present shape of coastline of southern Britain roughly established by about 7500 years ago, though more indented with the drowning of lowlands and estuaries that have since been silted up. In the south of the county the Fenland marine transgression started about 7850 BP. Deposition of clays, alternating with peats, filled the embayment as the sea rose. The final expansion of the tidal flats marked by a layer of marine clays and silts occurred between about 2750 and 1500 BP . This may have coincided with the final flooding of the forests on the Lincolnshire Marsh, forming our submerged forest.
Our understanding of the Doggerland landscape has been greatly enhanced in recent years by the availability of seismic data from the oil and gas industry. The superficial deposits on the seabed, of no interest to the hydrocarbons people, have been analysed by archaeologists to reveal the Mesolithic environment, previously known only through the occasional human artefacts found by fishermen. The findings are set out in the book by Vincent Gaffney, Simon Fitch and David Smith, 'Euorpe's Lost World - The Rediscovery of Doggerland' For a less academic read but a wonderful story, Julia Blackburn's book, 'Timesong - Searching for Doggerland' cannot be recommended highly enough.
V.Gaffney, S.Fitch and D.Smith, Europe's Lost World - The Rediscovery of Doggerland, Research Report No. 160 Council for British Archeology 2009.
Julia Blackburn, Timesong - Searching for Doggerland, Jonathan Cape, London 2019.
Europe's Lost Frontiers
Andy Emery, Left High and Dry: Deglaciation of Dogger Bank, North Sea, Recorded in Proglacial Lake Evolution
B G Nichols Lost British Landscapes
Doggerland IV, Tracks and Traces ~ Maxim Griffin
Towards the end of the last Ice Age much of the North Sea was dry land, an area we call Doggerland. Across this not-sea the first post-glacial human settlers walked from what is now continental Europe. As the ice melted so sea level rose, creating the British Isles. From thence on all new immigrants had to come across the seas. Maxim Griffin's drawing is inspired by the lost landscape of Doggerland.
The ocean will have us all - West Doggerland, looking north ~ Maxim Griffin
"West Doggerland - from Saltfleet to Donna Nook and beyond into the jaws of the Humber. There lies Ravenser Odd - a town last seen on the morning of 16th January 1362 - a day known as the Great Mandrake, or if you prefer our modern tongue, the Great Drowning of Men." ~ Maxim.
Strangely named, right on the tip,
Once dripping with goods and ships.
The last one, submerged and gone,
the lost land, looking like a thick rind
On the rasher of the East Riding
Some say they brought it on themselves,
Those persuasive pirates on their wet frontier
"Wicked deeds, predations, wrong doings on the sea..."
Well, now it's under it, and we've got words they didn't:
Satellite, Interglacial, Nietzsche.
The surge of 1355 smashed through the place: shacks, jakes and churchyard all
"Corpses and bones...horribly appeared..."
Grave contents gathered and moved the 4 miles to Easington.
But then the final inundation. A poor man’s Atlantis.
My love and I lived up that way for a while.
We'd visit the remainers,
Mappleton, Great Cowden, walk the beaches,
Pipes, corners of concrete, curiously appeared.
And then, inland to the in-laws we go.
It shocked me, the day we decided to visit Tunstall.
-Turn left into a dead end, passing the small church, a farm,
It feels like 50 years ago and a thousand miles away.
A Jack Russel barked us in and out.
"Everybody knows this is nowhere."
-Turn right and the road is half gone,
The tide’s bite mark taken from the tarmac
And dropped onto the stretched sand below.
Remains of pill boxes and caravans, pulled off the muddy cliffs by that constant sea.
History happening in that still frame
It's never over. And home is not forever.
Where shall we go next?
by Wes Finch
North Sea North Sea North Sea ~ Maxim Griffin
Outer North Sea ~ Maxim Griffin
Along the coasts of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk, folk have moved, pushed inland and allowed to move outwards again, as the sea and our sea-defences have, over the centuries, allowed. Relative sea level changes have been slight but on flat land the safe place can shift by miles. In the future, though the rate of change is still uncertain, the fact of sea level rise that will result from global warming is undeniable. Land will be lost, cities destroyed, populations will migrate.
Some online resources concerning Ravenser Odd:
A poem by Paul Davenport
Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell Community Interest Company is a not-for profit organisation, registered at Companies House. Company Number 10934941