First Brexit Happened Thousands of Years Ago, New Research Shows

April 9, 2017 5:00 am
(Chase Stone/Imperial College London)
(Chase Stone/Imperial College London)
(Chase Stone/Imperial College London)
(Chase Stone/Imperial College London)


As disruptive as the current United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union may feel to some, it’s nowhere near as catastrophic as the original Brexit.

Hundreds of thousands of years ago, Britain was part of the same landmass as the rest of Europe, connected by a thin stretch of land called an isthmus. New research shows two major erosion events created the Dover Strait, which now divides England and France at their closest points. The finding was published this week in Nature.

The first erosion event began around 450,00 years ago—about the same time Neanderthals appeared in Europe—when a lake at the edge of an ice sheet stretching from Britain to Scandinavia began to flood.

As more ice melted, more water formed. The chalk ridge connecting what’s now Dover, England and Calais, France held the flood waters back, acting as a dam, according to The Verge.

The final straw that formed the Dover Strait, i.e. the second erosion event, took place about 160,00 years ago. Scientists from Imperial College believe the chalk ridge buckled under the pressure of the flood waters, and thus the strait was born.

Read the full Nature report here.


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