Ten thousand years ago, our Western European ancestors occupied a world greatly different than today. That area included a landscape as large as Great Britain, now lying under the North Sea, that once joined Great Britain to the Continent.

We now call that submerged landscape “Doggerland”.

Doggerland

It is thought that the sea level rose no faster than about one or two meters per century, and that the land would have disappeared in a series of punctuated inundations. According to marine archaeologist Nic Flemming, a research fellow at the National Oceanography Centre of University of Southampton, UK. “It was perfectly noticeable in a generation, but nobody had to run for the hills.”

No wonder that water plays such a transformational role in European myths and legends. The Doggerland Plains were water logged; lakes, rivers and marshes were common. And as sea level rose a meter or so every lifetime, generation after generation of local peoples saw their land falling beneath the sea.

The Fomoire

The race are known as the Fomoire or Fomoiri, names that are often Anglicised as Fomorians, Fomors or Fomori. Later in Middle Irish they are also known as the Fomóraiġ. The etymology of the name Fomoire (plural) has been cause for some debate. Medieval Irish scholars thought the name contained the element muire “sea”, owing to their reputation as sea pirates.[1] In 1888, John Rhys was the first to suggest that it is an Old Irish word composed of fo “under/below” and muire “sea”, concluding that it may refer to beings whose (original) habitat is under the sea.[2]

So, are the tales of the Fomoire actually a racial memory of those times? Did the Irish once live in Doggerland, the land beneath the sea?

Cantre’r Gwaelod

And what about Welsh legends? Cantre’r Gwaelod is reputed to have been a kingdom below the waves.

And More…

Several similar legends exist in Celtic mythology which refer to a lost land beneath the waves. Both the Breton legend of Ker-Ys and the Arthurian tale of Lyonesse refer to a kingdom submerged somewhere in the Celtic Sea, off the coast of Brittany or Cornwall respectively.

There is much left yet for us to learn about our ancestors, and much to learn about ourselves in the seeking. Seek on!

 

2 Responses to The Land Beneath The Sea

  1. Troy Young says:

    I really enjoyed this article and learned a great deal from it. Irish history is particularly interesting to me. I hadn’t heard of Doggerland previously but now I want to look into it more. Thank you!

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