Europe's lost frontier

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Science  31 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6477, pp. 499-503
DOI: 10.1126/science.367.6477.499

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Most days, Willy van Wingerden spends a few free hours walking by the sea not far from the Dutch town of Monster. Here, the cheerful nurse has plucked more than 500 ancient artifacts from the broad, windswept beach known as the Zandmotor, or "sand engine." She has found Neanderthal tools made of river cobbles, bone fishhooks, and human remains thousands of years old. Her favorite beach—made of material dredged from the sea bottom offshore—preserves traces of a lost world, when sea levels were lower, and what is now the North Sea was a rich lowland, home to modern humans and Neanderthals. While she and other dedicated amateurs amass artifacts, scientists are applying new methods to date the finds and sequence any genetic traces, as well as to map the sea floor and analyze sediment cores. Together, researchers and collectors are bringing to light a vanished homeland of ancient Europeans.

  • * Andrew Curry is a journalist in Berlin.

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