To sum up what may very well be the most interesting 10,000 years in history in just one word – the Holocene. This also happens to be the period of time we are currently living in, and one where water has literally sculpted our planet.
The start of the Holocene, some 10 to 12,000 years before present, was a period marking the retreat of glaciers from the last ice age. During this ice age a significant amount of water was tied up as ice, making sea levels some 100meters+ lower than today. As the glaciers retreated since that time, sea levels have risen rather consistently, with a few extended periods of stabilization. These stable periods have etched their mark in stone, quite literally, and we can observe remnants of ancient shorelines underwater today.
In this photo, recently captured while conducting an exploratory project funded by National Geographic, we see a remnant shoreline at a depth of 60meters/185feet:
In these types of geographic regions, the Bahamas
in this case specifically, shear vertical walls were once towering limestone cliffs over the islands. With waves lapping against the cliffs and the limestone rock dissolving in the seawater, the erosional notches took form and remain as a small clue into our recent geological history.
With sea level so much lower than present day, tens of millions of square miles of our continental shelf
were exposed – and not all as towering cliffs. When considering that today, most civilization as we know it takes up residence near or around waterways as they provide transportation, opportunities for trade, resource exploitation, a source for entertainment, and social gathering sites, we should further consider that the ancients did much the same.
What does that mean exactly?
Well, there’s a good chance that traces of our ancestors – perhaps even considerably influential periods of time – and their innovations and day to day lives are very well lost under the seas. Considering this, the reasons why only traces of ancient civilization are discovered is because the search takes us to some very challenging environments…as much as 100 meters or more underwater, where robotics and technical diving scientists are the tools for the job. And so, we’ve only just scratched the surface.
There’s room out there for discovery for certain, and in letting your imagination run wild, consider some of the pieces in the below History Channel
segment from the series Ancient Aliens