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Continental Shelf Prehistoric Research (WG SUBLAND)

EMB Policy Brief-How did our ancestors adapt to sea-level change? Land Beneath the Waves-253
e-reading of the Policy Brief  Position Paper 21 (171pages) EMB Policy Brief 1 (8pages)

An extensive (extra 40% of the existing European land mass) lanscape was exposed on the continental shelf during the last glacial maximum 20,000 years ago. This now-drowned landscape is known to preserve extensive records of palaeo-shorelines and other traces of the original laCondscape topography, fluvial and lacustrine sediments, and palaeo-environmental and archaeological records of human activity, which hold valuable information on the long-term history of human settlements and of sea-level and climate change. The preservation of this substantial part of Europe's prehistory is being threatened by natural erosion and commercial maritime activities. A major increase in our efforts to explore these submerged prehistoric settlements is urgently needed to safeguard this heritage and support sustainable management of our coastal and offshore resources.

WG SUBLAND (Sept. 2013 to Sept. 2014) of the European Marine Board, composed of 13 interdisciplinary experts, provided a comrehensive overview of recent progress in the study of Europe's submerged cultural heritage and set out key research questions and policy priorities necessary to support this research in the future.

4 key enablers:

  • Increased support for research and education to advance knowledge and build capacity in institutes and laboratories engaged in Continental Shelf Prehistoric Research;
  • Access to technology and data from research and commercial sources for site discovery and analysis, and landscape reconstruction;
  • A coordinated partnership with industry to report finds, to transfer technologies and to optimize project planning for offshore commercial activities;
  • A multi-stakeholder mechanism for sustainable exploration, in compliance with treaties and legislation, to support best practice in Maritime Spatial Planning

Related Activities

European Commission Horizon 2020 Societal Challenge 5 WP2018-2019-2020 Public Consultation (April, 2016)

In the response (Download) issued by the European Marine Board, we reiterate the recommendations from the WG SUBLAND and stress that developping public interest around the the discoveries of ancient human settlement remains found in coastal seas has enormous potential to both tourism and awareness of how our ancestors adapted to sea level rise.

Promoting WG SUBLAND & OCNexus Consensus Statement during UN Climate Talks (COP21) 3 December 2015, Le Bourget, Paris

The recommendations from WG SUBLAND and Ocean-Climate Nexus Consensus Statement were presented at a UNESCO workshop 'Understanding the History of Climate Change and Sealevel Rise' in the Climate Generation Areas of the Le Bourget site, where the COP21 climate negotiations took place.

EU-UNESCO information meeting on underwater cultural heritage - protection and opportunities 1 October 2015, Brussels

European Marine Board former Vice Chair, Prof. Ricardo Serrão Santos MEP, hosted a scientific briefing (1 October) at the European Parliament on underwater cultural heritage organized by the European Commission and UNESCO. The work from EMB WG SUBLAND was listed as references to this information meeting. Several working group experts and scientists from the community attended and discussed with policy makers about its protection and opportunities (further information pdf).

European Maritime Day 2015 Workshop "Maritime Culture Heritage & Blue Growth: What's the Connection" 28 May 2015, Athens

The workshop highlighted the significant but largely unknown cultural heritage of human settlements that exist in the shallow shelf seas around Europe. Public interest in the discovery of prehistoric remains found in coastal seas has enormous tourism potential, a considerable sector in the European maritime economy. The role of the maritime industry in discovering submerged archaeological sites has been very important. Jointly presented by research, industry and heritage management organisations, this workshop showcased that the offshore economy can benefit from a cross-sectoral interaction to safeguard archaeological finds, to aid in their discovery and management, and to avoid unnecessary delays for commercial activities. (more details)

EC Public Consultation (June 2014)

Response to Horizon2020 SC5 stakeholder consultation (EMB response SC5_pdf). In the analysis report (EC report_pdf) from the 139 contributions, Continental Shelf Prehistoric Research is listed as one of the eight climate change-related research topics need to be financed. (EC H2020 news page)

Survey to national cultural heritage agencies in Europe

In 2014, WG conducted a survey to cultural heritage agencies in Europe.  The survey provided best available information about the activities and policies of national departments and agencies regarding the submerged prehistoric sites on the continental shelf within national jurisdiction. 



Position Paper 21 was launched at the 15th year EMB anniversary event during the EurOCEAN 2014 (Rome, Italy).

EMB Policy Brief 1, a high-level summary of the Position Paper 21, was published in November 2014.

WG contact at EMB Secretariat: Kate Larkin Email