Swathes of land buried under the sea could unlock a hidden history of how Ireland was impacted by climate change in the Stone Age, a leading archaeologist has said.
Graeme Warren, head of the UCD School of Archaeology, has published a paper for the Royal Irish Academy called 'Climate change and hunter- gatherers in Ireland: problems, potentials and pressing research questions'.
Prof Warren told the Irish Independent that although climate change had slowly changed the face of Irish civilisation, we still have little information about how people adapted to these changes during the Mesolithic period, from 10,000 to 6,000 years ago, when Ireland was settled by hunter-gatherers.
Prof Warren said there were major changes in temperature, climate and sea level and, associated with that, changes to the environment and the behaviour of plants and animals.
"Hunter-gatherers would have reacted to these changes too. Areas where people lived were flooded and were taken over by the sea. People's patterns of movement changed as the environment changed," he said.
Sea level rise since the end of the last Ice Age means Mesolithic sites, which would once have been on the coast, are now potentially as much as 30 metres underwater. In parts of the north and east of Ireland, however, shorelines from the later parts of the Mesolithic period are still above the sea.
In other parts of Europe, underwater excavations have helped to gain a clearer picture of this vital period of prehistory.