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“Atlantis” Found in England

It seems there is more than one “Atlantis” to be found because underwater cities do have a way of turning up every now and then. The Medieval town of Dunwich is England’s own "Atlantis" and its discovery and exploration have opened up a fascinating story for the world to see.

Medieval Dunwich, the underwater town christened England’s “Atlantis” was once a flourishing port in the Middle Ages.  In fact, the lost city was almost the size of today’s City of London, a major district central London.

Violent storms starting in the 1200s washed the city out to sea and silted up the Dunwich River, choking off the Dunwich harbor.  The destruction was so great that by the 1400s, Dunwich had lost its position as a major port.  The residents thus had little reason to stay and the city was deserted, left to the whims of nature.  As the centuries passed, the ruins continued to slip slowly into the sea as the coast eroded.

The desolate ruins of the city now decorate the coast of the county of Suffolk, England.  For those with an interest in such matters, the lost village has been difficult to explore, as it sits beneath 10 feet to 33 feet (3 meters to 10 meters) of silty, muddy water.  The ruins have been named after the mythological city of Atlantis that it is claimed sank into the sea.

A Closer Look

In 2008, researchers at the University of Southampton undertook an extensive underwater survey of medieval Dunwich.  The team has created the most detailed maps yet of the town’s streets and buildings, which include a chapel and a friary.

Researchers learned that Dunwich’s urban center once covered 0.7 square miles (1.8square kilometers).  There was an earthen wall which might have been built by Saxons to defend the city, enclosing the town’s central area.

Also discovered were the ruins of many religious buildings:  Blackfriars Friary, St. Peter’s, All Saints Church, St. Nicholas Church and the Chapel of St. Katherine.  

It appears that the northern part of the town was commercial, with wooden structures most likely related to port activities.

The state of the town is a stark reminder of how swiftly coastal change can occur.  The storms that wiped out Dunwich happened during a time when the climate was changing from a warm period into the little ice age, which lasted from around 1350 to 1850.

The residents of Dunwich may not have wanted to give up on their town, but eventually they had no choice.  The harbor was silting up, the town partially destroyed, and there was no way to make an income, so the people just gave up and moved on.

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