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Publisher's Summary

Well beyond the breadth of human existence, major land masses have through the ages reformed into disparate configurations on an inevitable path toward apocalyptic continental collisions. Within that process, our present tectonic reality shows no sign of slowing. Speculation holds, for example, that the African continent will in time overrun what is now the south of Europe. As an aid to perspective, population centers such as Venice and other iconic present-day cities are unlikely to survive what is to us an interminably lengthy natural process. 

In the distant past, the continents were not so separate. The southern portion of the globe was at one time occupied by a “supercontinent” dubbed “Gondwana”, or “Gondwanaland”, that existed 600 million years ago. The mass included present-day South America, Africa, Arabia, Madagascar, India, Australia, and Antarctica. The term “supercontinent” was coined by Austrian geologist Eduard Suess, an expert on the Alps who helped lay the basis for the study of paleography and tectonics. The latter was to replace the “drifting continent” theory with “the study of the architecture of the earth’s outer rocky shell”. In the late Paleozoic Age between 254 to 544 million years in the past, a global supercontinent commonly known as Pangea included the entire masses of Gondwana, Eurasia, and North America as the two northern continents collided. 

Added to the shifting of continents away from what has been theorized as an original “supercontinent”, other natural events have contributed to life’s tenuous existence. The unexpected oceanic covering of dry land masses by sudden seismically-driven tsunamis is more familiar to modern societies, and the sudden destruction wrought by these errant waves brought about by either volcanic action or sub-oceanic landslides is an ever-present danger to coastal communities. But equally perilous are slower alterations caused by climate change, a subject that has only recently begun to gain more attention. 

On the other hand, the famed “lost city” of Atlantis has been a point of intense interest for thousands of years, and the notion of a submerged civilization is not uncommon. Inundated cities have remained a regular feature of the planet since people developed coastal enclaves a few thousand years ago. The early 20th century theory of a floating land mass was in the decades following Suess’ career eclipsed by the acceptance of tectonic plates and the effects of their relentless friction as one passes under another. Such ongoing action affects not only land masses, but the vast oceans in which they are situated. Relocation of water on a grand scale is common to geological annals as a dominant and dynamic majority element. 

Among the most significant water displacement phenomena in the Western world was Doggerland on the northern European continent. The notable inundation occurred in both a steady and eruptive fashion covering a vast stretch of former tundra, a land bridge between today’s British Isles and the European continent. The event brought about the modern English Channel and an expanded North Sea, and unlike the early supercontinents, the inundation of Doggerland took place after the appearance of people. Incrementally submerged since roughly 18,000 years ago as the climate warmed, the patch of sea between Britain and Europe is the subject of much recent scientific scrutiny. Several fields are participating in the inquiry as to how and why the inundation took place, and the nature of the peoples that settled there. This encompasses earliest man to Neanderthals and on through the Mesolithic prototype of the modern European.

©2021 Charles River Editors (P)2021 Charles River Editors

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