Stone Age Boat Building Site With Technology Not Seen for Thousands More Years Discovered by Underwater Archeologists

A Stone Age boat building site with technological developments not thought to have been developed for thousands more years has been discovered off the U.K. coast. The site, which is submerged 36 feet underwater, was discovered by archeologists in 2005. However, until now, experts did not know what the structure had been used for.

Researchers with the Maritime Archaeological Trust, a charity involved in the underwater excavation of sites across Britain, initially found the submerged wooden structure was made up of contains trimmed timbers that scientists believed could have been walkways, platforms or merely collapsed structures.

However, after returning to the site in late spring, the team found a new structure sticking out from the "drowned forest" it sits in. By analyzing the site with state-of-the-art imaging techniques, archeologists were able to create a 3D model of the landscape. They then excavated the new platform, finding it was made up of several layers of timber that had been placed on wooden foundations laid horizontally.

The new structure, which dates back 8,000 years, is part of the oldest boat building site in the world, researchers believe. It sits off the coast of the Isle of Wight—an island off the south coast of England.

"The site contains a wealth of evidence for technological skills that were not thought to have been developed for a further couple of thousand years, such as advanced woodworking. This site shows the value of marine archeology for understanding the development of civilization," Garry Momber, director of Maritime Archaeological Trust, said in a statement.

As well as the advanced woodworking skills, researchers also found crafted tools that indicate a more advanced European influence.

At this time, the North Sea was yet to fully form, so the Isle of Wight would still have been connected to mainland Europe. The region would have been covered in lush vegetation.

The land between Europe and southern England was part of a larger landmass known as Doggerland. This connected the U.K. to Europe and would have been home to Mesolithic people before sea level rises submerged the landscape, cutting off the two landmasses around 6,000 years ago.

The wooden artifacts from the boat building site are now being stored by the National Oceanography Centre. If not kept in dark, cold and wet conditions, the ancient wood will degrade far faster, meaning the information stored in it—such as engravings and cut marks—will be lost forever.

"This new discovery is particularly important as the wooden platform is part of a site that doubles the amount of worked wood found in the UK from a period that lasted 5,500 years," Momber said.

boat building site
A diver inspects the newly discovered platform. The Stone Age boat building site could be the oldest in the world. Maritime Archaeological Trust