The Marine Aggregate Industry Archaeological Protocol encourages the reporting and recording of maritime archaeological finds discovered by the aggregate industry during dredging works. The discoveries that come to light form a database of maritime archaeological finds that otherwise may have been discarded as waste material, and the records of these discoveries are shared with local and national archaeological curators, making them accessible to everyone. Over 1600 finds have been reported through the Protocol since its launch in 2005, ranging from metal artefacts to timber and flints.
In May 2006, a collection of artefacts was reported from the Steenkorrel Wharf in Amsterdam. The material came from a load dredged by the CEMEX vessel Sand Falcon from licence area 360 off Great Yarmouth in February 2006. The collection was found to contain wood, peat, mineralised bone, antler and a single piece of struck flint.
The struck flint was identified as man made by Matt Leivers, a flint specialist here at Wessex Archaeology. The nature of the recovery of the remains means that it is not possible to guarantee that all the items are contemporary. However, the presence of reworked fragments of peat is certainly suggestive that the material has eroded out of a peat layer. If we assume that the material is broadly contemporary then a submerged terrestrial land surface, probably of early Mesolithic date (c. 8500 BC), is the most likely origin of the material. During the last Ice Age a greater proportion of the world’s water was incorporated in ice sheets and sea level dropped. As a result, large expanses of land, now forming the seabed of the North Sea and the English Channel, were available for human habitation. At the end of the Ice Age, sea levels rose as the ice sheets melted and these areas became submerged. Many of these former terrestrial landscapes lie preserved on the seabed. The study of submerged prehistoric landscapes and associated archaeological deposits is still a young science and discoveries of such land surfaces are incredibly important for our understanding of the nature and distribution of prehistoric settlements. The field promises to provide a different and valuable source of information about prehistoric peoples and has the potential to expand our knowledge of those societies and inform terrestrial archaeology, possibly even to transform the currently prevalent, terrestrial perspective itself.