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'We're going to find out how they lived': Researchers to look under the Irish Sea for evidence of first settlers

Under the Irish sea is a prehistoric ‘palaeolandscape’ of plains, hills, marshlands and river valleys.

Image: Europe's Lost Frontiers

A GROUP OF researchers has set out on an undersea expedition to look for evidence of the first Irish settlers.

The team, which includes researchers from IT Sligo, University College Cork (UCC), the University of Bradford and the Irish Marine Institute, will explore the landscapes between Ireland and Britain which were submerged following the last Ice Age.

Globally, the sea level rose around 120 metres and an area more than twice that of the modern United States was lost to the sea.

Beneath the waves of the Irish Sea is a prehistoric ‘palaeolandscape’ of plains, hills, marshlands and river valleys in which researchers expect evidence of human activity to be preserved.

This landscape, according to researchers, is similar to Doggerland, an area of the southern North Sea and currently the best-known example of a palaeolandscape in Europe. Doggerland has been extensively researched by Professor Vince Gaffney, principal investigator of this project, which is called Europe’s Lost Frontiers.

Gaffney said research by the project team has provided accurate maps and this submerged land is suspected to hold crucial information regarding the first settlers of Ireland and the adjacent lands along the Atlantic corridor.

To provide this evidence, sediment is currently being taken by the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Voyager in Liverpool and Cardigcan bays.

The research started on 21 February and will continue until tomorrow.

“It is very exciting as we’re using cutting-edge technology to retrieve the first evidence for life within landscapes that were inundated by rising sea levels thousands of years ago. This is the first time that this range of techniques has been employed on submerged landscapes under the Irish Sea,” commented chief scientist for this phase of the research, Dr James Bonsall.

“Today we perceive the Irish Sea as a large body of water, a sea that separates us from Britain and mainland Europe, a sea that gives us an identity as a proud island nation. But 18,000 years ago, Ireland, Britain and Europe were part of a single landmass that gradually flooded over thousands of years, forming the islands that we know today.

“We’re going to find out where, when, why and how people lived on a landscape that today is located beneath the waves”.

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