8,000-Year-Old Underwater "Boathouse" Discovered Off Britain's Coast

Historian Dan Snow inspecting the site. Maritime Archaeological Trust

Archaeologists have discovered an 8,000-year-old wooden structure linked to what they think is the world's oldest boat building site. 

The architecture is particularly well preserved considering it is 11 meters (36 feet) underwater – the structure is located on a section of the seabed close to the Isle of Wight. At the time of its construction, however, the area would have been landlocked and filled with lush vegetation.

The Maritime Archaeological Trust, who oversaw the excavation, says it is the most intact wooden structure from the Middle Stone Age found in the UK to date. 

"The site contains a wealth of evidence for technological skills that were not thought to have been developed for a further couple of thousand years, such as advanced woodworking," Garry Momber, director of the Maritime Archaeological Trust, said in a statement.

"This site shows the value of marine archaeology for understanding the development of civilization."

Although the remains were first found in 2005, recent excavations and 3D digital modeling of the site have revealed a connected platform built from layers of split timbers laid on round-wood foundations. The material and woodworking skills used suggest there was a European Neolithic influence to the design. 

"This new discovery is particularly important as the wooden platform is part of a site that doubles the amount of worked wood found in the UK from a period that lasted 5,500 years," said Momber.

Map of Doggerland by Clement Reid, made in 1913. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Back then, what is now called the UK was still connected to mainland Europe by an area of marshland, woodland, and swamps – a region called Doggerland. But by the time Mesolithic people were building these wooden structures, sea levels had already started to rise, causing the coastlines to recede, as warmer temperatures melted the ice caps that had covered the area during the last ice age. 

Indeed, it was probably not that much later (circa 6,100 BCE) that rising sea levels swamped Doggerland for good, cutting off the British Isles from the European mainland in the way that we see today. 

This week's wooden structure isn't the only archaeological news as far as Doggerland is concerned. Earlier this year, archaeologists found an ancient Stone Age settlement (or "British Atlantis") that could have housed thousands of people 8,000 years ago. 

"This is a very exciting project to be involved in," geoarchaeologist Martin Bates of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David said at the time.

"From this information we can pinpoint likely places on, or beneath, the seabed which might have evidence for activity by our ancestors living in this now lost landscape."

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