Early Holocene inundation of Doggerland and its impact on hunter-gatherers: An inundation model and dates-as-data approach

P. W. Hoebe*, K. M. Cohen, F. S. Busschers, S. van Heteren, J. H.M. Peeters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Sea-level rise was a key factor changing environments during the Early Holocene in Northwest Europe. It affected Mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities by inundating large areas in the current North Sea, commonly referred to as Doggerland. In this paper we present novel inundation models for the southern North Sea providing visualisations of lateral inundation driven by sea-level rise and relate it to frequency analysis of radiocarbon dates from archaeological sites. These improve on previous studies that relied on bathymetric data, which includes post-inundation overprints of Holocene sedimentation and erosion, and thus significantly underestimates the timing of inundation in some areas. We constructed a paleoDEM (a composite elevation grid of the top of the Pleistocene) for the eastern part of the southern North Sea; and sea level surfaces that combine relative sea-level curves from glacio-isostatic adjustment models optimised for Britain and southern Scandinavia respectively. We corrected our paleoDEMs for tectonic background basin subsidence, and in the inundation modelling account for pre-compaction elevation of peat in coastal areas. We evaluated the impact of these model components on our results and describe the possible inundation history of Doggerland. We suggest earlier inundation than predicted by previous models, showing significant area loss around 10.5–10 ka cal BP. Palaeogeographic changes are compared with archaeological radiocarbon data using a dates-as-data approach. Composite Kernel Density Estimate and permutation tested Summed Probability Distributions are used as a proxy for the visibility, nature and intensity of human activity. Results indicate key periods of growth and decline recorded in the dataset, as well as regional differences in growth rate, some correlating with inundation phases. Chiefly, we find elevated growth rates around 10.5–10 ka in northwest Germany and the Netherlands, contemporaneous with the abovementioned phase of extensive area loss, and moreover, with changes in culture and practices on Early Mesolithic sites. However, the spatiotemporal distribution of archaeological data is significantly influenced by accessibility and preservation of sediments of a certain age. We discuss the importance of inundation modelling and sediment data in understanding how landscape taphonomy affects archaeological patterning, especially in dates-as-data approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-50
Number of pages25
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2024


  • Dates-as-data
  • Inundation modelling
  • Mesolithic
  • Radiocarbon
  • Sea-level rise


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