Today we'll stay in an archaeological vein, mostly because a couple of loyal readers of Skeptophilia read yesterday's post and responded with links of their own and messages which basically boil down to, "Yes, but have you seen this?"
The first one comes to us from the ever-entertaining site Mysterious Universe, but unlike their usual fare of Bigfoots and UFOs, this one is about legitimate scientific research. Not that you could tell from the title, which is "Yorkshire's Atlantis May Have Finally Been Found." To be fair, the appellation of "Atlantis" isn't the fault of the author, Paul Seaburn; apparently this site, Ravenser Odd, has been called that before. But unlike Atlantis, Ravenser Odd is a real place. It was a port city on the estuary of the River Humber, attested thoroughly in records of the time until in 1362 there was a storm that breached the sand-based seawall and swamped it completely, and the once thriving town -- like its mythological namesake -- sank beneath the waves.
The shape of the long, narrow seawall is what gave the place its name, all the way back in Viking times, some four hundred years earlier; Ravenser Odd is a mangled version of hrafns eyr, which means "raven's eye" in Old Norse. In its time it was a busy place. It was one of the most thriving ports in the region, and a record from 1299 describes it as containing a central marketplace, wharves, warehouses, a court, a prison, a chapel, two mills, a tannery, an annual fair, and over a thousand residences. The coastal region near the original submerged town retained the name, and in fact it's mentioned twice in Shakespeare, where he calls it "Ravenspurgh" (Richard II, act 2, scene 1, line 298, and Henry IV Part 1, act 1, scene 3, line 245).
Despite multiple attestations in the records, no one was able to find where the original Ravenser Odd had stood -- until now.
An amateur archaeologist named Philip Mathison, who is something of an expert on Ravenser Odd, stumbled upon an 1892 document on eBay that mentioned "submarine remains" at Spurn, a tidal island north of the mouth of the Humber -- and gave directions on how to find them. Mathison went out in a boat with an echo sounder, and found what looked like a human-made rock wall, exactly where the document had said it would be."People had assumed it was way out to sea, as the shape of the peninsula now is very different to how it was in the thirteenth century," Mathison said. "This document showed a stone ledge to the east of Spurn which I believe could be the walls of a dock or quay... The ridge was most likely rock armor to protect the port, as it was under threat from erosion way before it was abandoned. The bulk of the town's buildings were on a shingle bank called The Old Den, to the west side of Spurn, and some brickwork from them has been found in the past. The town curved around like a fish hook and the wharves were at the other end... But it needs a proper dive to find out."