Why is Marine Heritage Important?

The North Sea, an archaeological and paleontological archive

The North Sea forms a unique archaeological and palaeontological archive. This archive remains to date largely unknown, and unexplored. It nevertheless contains an unimaginable treasure of prehistorical and historical information (e.g. shipwrecks, coastal defenses, human habitation) as well as information concerning former climate changes and changes in the landscape, flora and fauna.

The importance for prehistoric communities

Scientific research has demonstrated that the dried up and in the mean time again flooded areas of the North Sea were crucial for the survival, distribution and development of prehistoric communities. These often low lying, water and nutrient rich regions have played an important role in the evolution of modern man, the first experiments with fishing and navigation, and through these the distribution of new insights and technologies. Many crucial developments took place during the past ten thousands of years of the last ice age and the first millennia of the period after this ice age (postglacial age).

Historical importance

Also thereafter, the North Sea remains predominantly an element of connection and distribution rather than of division. The role of the seas, in this case the North Sea, is crucial for a number of developments, both negative and positive: distribution of epidemics, invasions, distribution of new ideas, emergence of trade links such as the Hanze, the rise of Bruges,… The southern North Sea is subsequently also one of the most navigated seas in the world from the middle ages until today thanks to the presence of trade cities such as Antwerp, Bruges, Amsterdam, and London in the vicinity.


The archaeological evidence that is encountered in the North Sea is often very well preserved and therefore forms a unique addition to the material evidence present on land. From this we can deduce the environment of prehistoric man and the historic development of marine regions.

On top of this, the study of buried landscapes allows the mapping of old coastlines and that leads to a better understanding of the effect of the current climate change on the coastal landscape. In other words, these prehistoric landscapes provide us with an exceptional window for the future.