Australia Versus Denmark

It is June 21st 2018. Today is the big day: Australia versus Denmark in the World Cup. Both teams had two years of tough qualification rounds to make it into the Cup – but more importantly, our Danish colleagues tell us that the Islanders have been looking forward to us coming to watch the game – presumably because Denmark are the heavy favourites to win today.


This week is also a big week for DHSC. The team of Australia-based researchers and students are back in Denmark, to excavate the submerged Mesolithic site at Hjarnø with our DHSC colleagues from the Moesgaard Museum. The local community members come down to visit us daily to remind us that we are welcome. It’s the Danish summer but we still get our fair share of weather and, more often than we would like, strong winds.  We can’t dive on those days and that can be frustrating.  But underwater archaeology is incredibly rewarding because, until relatively recently, the technology didn’t exist to explore these sites so, unlike dry land sites, they’re much less likely to have been raided by looters and they haven’t been built over.  But it is up to the sea and the wind and ‘call off days’ (or half days) are common.

Today was a half day.  That means only two dives this morning excavating – though fortunately the site is shallow and so the dives are nice and long.  But just for today, the team is less heartbroken to have to spend the afternoon topside. Kickoff is at 14:00h CET. Just enough time to get our morning work done, warm up with lunch, and then do some community engagement. The Islanders invited us down to the local community centre. How could we possibly say no?

Game on.


GOAL Denmark 1:0

That didn’t take long! We hadn’t even blown up the green and yellow balloons we brought to the community centre. This could be a long day…

So why does an international team of researchers and research students from Australia come all the way to Jutland to dive in these shallow, cold waters? Because of what we can learn about the past! The submerged prehistoric landscapes and underwater sites, predominantly from the Mesolithic (about 7000 – 6000 years ago) are plentiful in Denmark, and there is no better place to work with experienced professionals. This is especially great for our early career researchers who don’t have access to this kind of site or material and would otherwise have no chance to train to become specialists. But that is not because the submerged sites don’t exist in Australia and elsewhere – they just haven’t been found! Not yet anyway. Training here will supply Australia with its own experienced, professional teams of future experts.


This project and these particular sites are special. They are submerged prehistoric settlements, with incredibly well preserved material: stone tools, bones, ceramics, wood, antler, and shell. We can learn so much here! Shell midden sites are found all over the world, not just in Denmark, so by studying these submerged deposits, we can not only answer questions about European archaeology, but we can begin to understand how sites like this may exist – and be found – all around the world. Shell middens from the early to mid Holocene are also found in the Americas, Africa, Asia and, of course, Australia. There is a very good chance that earlier coastal sites exist in all of these places, around the world. They’re just offshore now, due to rising sea levels in the past. We hope that our research here will inform how our team, and others, might treat the search for, and excavation of, submerged sites.


GOAL Australia 1:1

Australia equalise! Which is exactly what we hope to do in the future; find and explore Australia’s Deep History of Sea Country. We hope to learn as much as we can, build capacity in our junior scholars and early career researchers while we are in Denmark. Our Danish hosts have been amazing colleagues and the dialogue and experience makes us better at what we do.


Everybody wins.


Stay tuned for more blog posts about the team, our students and volunteers and progress this week in Denmark and throughout the remainder of the project!

Author: Deep History of Sea Country: Climate, Sea Level and Culture

This is our official project blog for the Deep History of Sea Country: Climate, Sea Level and Culture. Our project is funded by the Australian Research Council (DP170100812) and our official webpage is: Submerged landscape archaeology is an under-researched field in Australia and represents a major opportunity to address knowledge gaps in world prehistory such as early human migrations, the archaeology of land bridges and coastal-hinterland cultural exchange.

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