Search for evidence of first Irish settlers heads to lost landscapes under the sea
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Search for evidence of first Irish settlers heads to lost landscapes under the sea

A TEAM of researchers is searching under the sea for evidence of the first settlers in Ireland.

The Europe’s Lost Frontiers project will be joined by researchers from IT Sligo, University College Cork, and the Irish Marine Institute to explore the lost landscapes of the Irish Sea.

The team will use the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer to take sediment samples from 20 sites in Liverpool and Cardigan Bays.

They hope the survey will provide information about the lifestyles of the first settlers around the coasts of Ireland and Britain.

“We’re going to find out where, when, why and how people lived on a landscape that today is located beneath the waves,” said Dr James Bonsall from IT Sligo.

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The land between Ireland and Britain was once habitable, part of a larger landmass that also included Europe.

However it became submerged when sea levels rose after the Ice Age.

'Identity as a proud island nation'

Beneath the waves of the Irish Sea is a prehistoric ‘palaeolandscape’ of plains, hills, marshlands and river valleys in which evidence of human activity is thought to be preserved.

Dr Bonsall, from IT Sligo’s Department of Environmental Science is the Chief Scientist for this phase of the research.

He said: “Today we perceive the Irish Sea as a large body of water, a sea that separates us from Britain and mainland Europe, a sea that gives us an identity as a proud island nation.

“But 18,000 years ago, Ireland, Britain and Europe were part of a single landmass that gradually flooded over thousands of years, forming the islands that we know today.”

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Professor Vince Gaffney, Principal Investigator of the Europe’s Lost Frontiers Project, said the land beneath the Irish Sea could hold crucial information.

He said: “Research by the project team has also provided accurate maps for the submerged lands that lie between Ireland and Britain and these are suspected to hold crucial information regarding the first settlers of Ireland and adjacent lands along the Atlantic corridor.”

This survey began on Wednesday and will conclude tomorrow, after which the samples will be studied by an international research team.