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A 10,000-Year-Old Forest Has Been Discovered, And It’s Under Water

Ancient oak trees found on the bottom of the North Sea represent a prehistoric woodland that likely spanned thousands of acres

(Oanh/Image Source/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

An amateur diver out for an expedition off the coast of Norfolk recently stumbled upon an exciting ecological find less than 300 yards from shore.

The diver, Dawn Watson, was swimming in just over 20 feet of water when she came upon massive tree trunks lying on the ocean floor, some with branches spanning over 26 feet, Reuters reported. Scientists say that the wood, which is believed to be oak, is the remainder of a lush prehistoric forest that thrived on the spot over 10,000 years ago.

Severe storms that hit the area in late 2013 likely moved the sand and sentiment that previously obscured the trees, as they did for several other ancient forests recently discovered along the Cornish and Welsh coasts.

Scientists believe the forest was once atop an ancient landmass called Doggerland which, Reuters writes, “was so expansive that hunter-gatherers based in the area could have travelled on foot to Germany.” Sometimes referred to as a “prehistoric ‘Atlantis,’” the area ultimately disappeared under water following a tsunami that hit about 8,000 years ago, according to the BBC.

The discovery may lead to further information about the people and animals of the Mesolithic era, should scientists be able to access fossils possibly buried beneath the ancient trees. For now, however, the trees are home to variety of ocean life that uses the logs’ shelter as a reef.

“It was amazing to find and to think the trees had been lying there completely undiscovered for thousands of years,” Watson told the Eastern Daily Press. “You certainly don’t expect to go out for a quick dive and find a forest.” 

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