Geoff Bailey is lead proposer of a European consortium that has been awarded an EU grant for a COST (Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action SPLASH to develop a large-scale international network of research collaboration, bringing together archaeologists, marine geophysicists, environmental scientists and commercial and industrial organizations operating on the European seabed. The grant is worth about 500,000 Euros over a four-year period, and funds are dedicated to meetings, workshops, conferences, visits to laboratories, training programs, technical and scientific publications, and dissemination to a wider public.
The main objectives are to promote research on the investigation, interpretation and management of the drowned landscapes and prehistoric archaeology of the European continental shelf, which form a major but hidden part of the European cultural heritage, to create a structure for the development of new interdisciplinary and international research proposals, and to provide guidance to heritage professionals, government agencies, commercial organisations, policy makers and a wider public on the relevance of underwater research to European history, and to the understanding of sea level change and its social relevance and likely future impact.
Up to 3.2 million square kilometres of the European continental shelf (about 40 per cent of the European land mass) was exposed as dry land during the periods of lower sea level that persisted throughout the Ice Ages until the establishment of modern sea level about 6000 years ago. These now-submerged coastal regions probably played a key role in the survival and dispersal of Europe's earliest Stone Age inhabitants, the extinction of the last Neanderthals and their replacement by modern humans originating from Africa, the early development of prehistoric societies, the earliest experiments in fishing and seafaring, the spread of human communities into Britain and Scandinavia after the last Ice age, the initial dispersal of agriculture from the Near East, and the founding of the earliest civilizations, all of which took place when sea levels were lower than present.
This proposal is the outcome of a series of discussions over the past year between a small group of British, Danish, Dutch, German, Greek, Norwegian and Spanish specialists already engaged in coastal and underwater research. During the preparation of the proposal, there were expressions of interest from over 150 archaeologists, scientists and heritage professionals from 27 European Member States including the European partner countries of Russia and the Ukraine. The number of participants is expected to increase substantially during the course of the Action.
Geoff Bailey said: ‘We are all aware that a decisive step forward in exploring the continental shelf, especially the more deeply submerged areas, will require large-scale funding, international research collaboration, and engagement with industry. The COST framework provides an ideal framework for sharing knowledge and developing expertise in meeting the challenges of archaeology’s last frontier’.
More information at the International Science Grid.