How discovery off the Norfolk coast holds the key to Norway's past
Lost land under the sea.....
It is just eight inches long, but its discovery changed what we know about prehistoric Europe and our ancestors.
The harpoon, which was found by a Lowestoft fishing trawler in 1931, was yesterday under the lens of a Norwegian television crew, who are making a documentary on the origins of Norway.
It is 14,000 years old, but in perfect condition, the points carved into it still sharp. It would have been used for hunting by modern man in late Paleolithic or early Mesolithic times; a time before written records when people lived in hunter-gatherer communities.
But it is where it was found, 25 miles off the coast of Cromer, that makes it important to history. When it was dredged off the sea bed in 1931, hidden inside a lump of peat, it was taken home by Pilgrim Lockwood, the skipper of the fishing boat Colinda. It later ended up in Norwich's Castle Museum, where it fascinated archaeologists. They thought it might have been dropped by hunters on a fishing expedition. But later tests showed that the freshwater peat it came from would have been on land thousands of years ago. They realised the existence of land in the North Sea, long since drowned, called Doggerland.
The harpoon is now on display in the Museum of Rural Life in Gressenhall, near Dereham, but was being filmed in the study centre at the Castle Museum yesterday.
Its significance to Norwegian history is that it shows how people from south-west Europe could have got to Norway. The theory is that in the last ice age, people from Iberia moved up into Britain, across Doggerland and into Scandinavia.
Producer Ole Egil Strkson said: "This particular object is the first clue that that happened."
The producers had been hoping to find relatives of Pilgrim Lockwood to tell the story of how he found the harpoon. What is known is that he returned to the site in 1932 to take the peat samples which were used for testing.
The television crew said they felt moved by the age and significance of the deer antler harpoon, known as the Leman and Ower harpoon after the sandbanks where it was found. Presenter Samina Bruket said: "I was allowed to hold it. To think it is 14,000 years old is just amazing. I had seen pictures of it but it is even more beautiful than I thought, it was so shiny and well preserved."
Mr Storkson said: "It has been carved, so you can see it really has been used by humans."
Alan West, a curator of archaeology with Norfolk museum service, said: "It was originally part of a pair. The barbs faced each other with a long shaft used to stab down, like the eel spears you see from the 19th century."
The programme, which will be called Norwegian Roots, is due to be shown in December on the biggest Norwegian television station in prime-time.
The film crew went on to visit Holme-next-the-sea, near Hunstanton, where they filmed peat and remains of tree roots visible at low tide, showing that there was once land which is now covered by sea.
They are also planning to visit Vince Gaffney, of Birmingham University and an expert in Doggerland. He says that: "a very real, human tragedy lies behind the loss of this immense landscape", and that with global warming and sea levels rising, it has relevance today.
Doggerland, named after the Dogger Bank sandbank, is thought to have existed between 12,000 and 8,000 years ago.
During the last ice age, much more water was contained in the polar ice caps, and the North Sea included an area of land larger than England and Wales, linking East Anglia with Holland and Belgium, with a much narrower stretch of water cutting off Britain from Norway.
It is thought to have been a land of rivers and marshes, which offered good hunting grounds for people. As the earth warmed and sea levels rose 8,000 years ago, the land was covered by water. Sea levels rose at one or two metres per century, creating a loss of land which would have been noticeable to the residents but not enough to drown them overnight.
Europe's Lost World - Rediscovery of Doggerland..
Posted by moss
18th March 2010ce
Edited 18th March 2010ce