underwater plants

Polish case: Puck Lagoon

Location of the case

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Puck Lagoon (Poland)

Implementing institution

National Maritime Museum in Gdansk (Poland)

 

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Field work

The BalticRIM project aiming at integrating the maritime cultural heritage issues into the maritime spatial planning enabled the National Maritime Museum in Gdansk to perform the first research on the submerged relics of Stone Age paleolandscape in the Puck Bay and to implement the legal protection over such sites.

During the last glacial, approximately 14.000 years ago the Puck Bay area was a dry land with numerous peats and lakes and the Baltic shoreline was located 30 km further north than today. 11.700 years ago a brackish Yoldia Sea emerged out of the glacier with sea level about 55 meters below modern times. Sea water for the first time reached the contemporary Puck Lagoon region approx. 7.500 years ago. Thousand years later waters reached the contemporary Rzucewo Deep, marking the beginnings of the Puck Lagoon.

Large areas of the region between Swarzewo and Puck still remained dry land. This lagoon-maritime environment was undoubtedly alluring for the Stone Age hunters-gatherers. However, with the exemption of few loose finds there are still no submerged archaeological Stone Age sites in the Polish Baltic discovered yet.

Along the coastline between Rewa and Władysławowo numerous land Stone Age archaeological sites had been found, most of them are related to the Neolithic Rzucewo Culture. The existence of non-discovered submerged archaeological sites in this area is highly probable. Because of the erosive effects of water movement, the areas of seabed with preserved Stone Age paleolandscape relics such as peat layers and remains of trees are especially interesting from the archaeological point of view. During the works within the BalticRIM project the team of National Maritime Museum in Gdansk (NMM) has analysed the land archaeological sites database, correlating their location with the peleogeographic analysis of the prehistoric coastline performed by the Polish Geological Institute. Several test areas in Puck Lagoon (total area: 9 km2) had been thus selected and scanned with the side-scan sonar. The main goal was to test, verify and develop the best method of registering the remains of submerged cultural paleolandscape. The scanning results were later verified by underwater archaeologists during the field survey.

The discovered remains of submerged forests (mostly roots and lower parts of tree trunks) and peat layers were found on the seabed, on small depths of 1,5 to 4 meters. During the field survey 36 samples were taken from the submerged tree trunks and peat, 28 of them were radiocarbon dated. Samples from Swarzewo and Puck-Rozgard areas were dated from about 9200 BC to 8300 BC, while the Rzucewo samples from about 6000 BC to 4700 BC. Dates from Rzucewo are especially interesting, as they are contemporary with the Ertebølle culture artefacts found at the archaeological site in Rzucewo.

The achieved fieldwork results and the paleogeographic analysis performed by the Polish Geological Institute made it possible to define the coastal areas with the highest archaeological potential. Together with the Maritime Institute in Gdańsk the NMM team has prepared an application for protecting the said area, applied into implementation within the new Polish Maritime Spatial Plan. The NMM hopes that these actions will help in better protection of submerged paleolandscape, which is a unique testimony of the past.   

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