Britain's Atlantis: Archaeologists Reveal Remains Of Medieval Dunwich
May 9, 2013

Britain’s Atlantis: Archaeologists Reveal Remains Of Medieval Dunwich

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

One researcher from University of Southampton has carried out the most detailed analysis ever of the remains of an ancient medieval city dubbed "Britain's Atlantis."

Professor David Sear of Southampton's Geography and Environment has created the most accurate map to date of the lost medieval town of Dunwich. His map includes the town's streets, boundaries, major buildings, and even ruins on the seabed. Sear worked with researchers from the University´s GeoData Institute, the National Oceanography Center (NOC) and Wessex Archaeology to create the map. He also utilized local divers from North Sea Recovery and Learn Scuba.

Dunwich is a village 14 miles south of Lowestoft in Suffolk that was once a thriving port similar in size to 14th Century London. The town suffered extreme storms that forced coastal erosion and flooding, nearly wiping out the town over the past seven centuries. Dunwich now lies collapsed 10 to 32 feet below the surface of the sea just off Britain's coastline.

“Visibility under the water at Dunwich is very poor due to the muddy water. This has limited the exploration of the site," Sear said in a statement. “We have now dived on the site using high resolution DIDSON acoustic imaging to examine the ruins on the seabed — a first use of this technology for non-wreck marine archaeology."

He said the DIDSON technology is like shining a light down on the seabed, but using sound instead of light.

"The data produced helps us to not only see the ruins, but also understand more about how they interact with the tidal currents and sea bed," the professor added.

According to the latest findings, Dunwich was about 0.6 square miles, which also held a city square area about 0.3 square miles. Within the city square you could find plenty of medieval churches, including Blackfriars Friary, St Peter´s, All Saint´s, St Nicholas, and the Chapel of St Katherine.

The northern area of the town was largely commercial, including wooden structures most likely associated with the port.

“The loss of most of the medieval town of Dunwich over the last few hundred years — one of the most important English ports in the Middle Ages — is part of a long process that is likely to result in more losses in the future," said Peter Murphy, English Heritage´s coastal survey expert who is currently completing a national assessment of coastal heritage assets in England. "Everyone was surprised, though, by how much of the eroded town still survives under the sea and is identifiable."

He said the techniques developed by Sear and his team will ensure that our knowledge about the town isn't lost forever. Murphy added that these techniques will be valuable to help understand submerged and eroded terrestrial sites in other places.

“It is a sobering example of the relentless force of nature on our island coastline. It starkly demonstrates how rapidly the coast can change, even when protected by its inhabitants," Sear said. “Our coastlines have always been changing, and communities have struggled to live with this change. Dunwich reminds us that it is not only the big storms and their frequency — coming one after another, that drives erosion and flooding, but also the social and economic decisions communities make at the coast. In the end, with the harbor silting up, the town partly destroyed, and falling market incomes, many people simply gave up on Dunwich.”

A team of scientists from Brazil and Japan announced earlier today that they discovered "Brazil's Atlantis." They discovered a granite artifact more than 8,000 feet deep off the coast of Brazil in a region known as the Rio Grande Elevation. This ancient artifact could have formed on the ancient supercontinent Pangaea. The researchers predict it was part of a continent that disappeared nearly a hundred million years ago when Africa and South America separated.

The granite formation was discovered last year during seabed dredging by geologists, and the researchers on the project say it is unusual because you don't find granite on the seabed. Although they said it might not be a lost city in the middle of the Atlantic, it could have various implications in relation to the extension of the continental shelf.