Lyonesse – Lost


The legend of a lost land called Lyonesse, submerged off the rugged Cornish coast between Land’s End and the Isles of Scilly has found its way into medieval and popular folklore based on a small number of primary sources. In addition, we find related legends of a sunken city lying off the Brittany coast, together with the comparable Welsh and Irish legends of lost lands. Usually commentators on the theme of Lyonesse are diverted into a discussion of Arthurian literature, which then leads to a trivialisation of the legends as fiction and myth. However, in the 1950s the Welsh geologist Frederick John North thoroughly examined all the medieval sources for the various myths of sunken cities. His conclusion was that they were inspired by a memory of a single ancient event that subsequently became dispersed to various locations. This article will therefore concentrate on an exploration of the earliest root sources.


The version of the Lyonesse legend that is most often quoted comes from the fifteenth-century itinerary of Cornwall by William of Worcester (1415-1482) who tells us of:


…woods and fields and one-hundred-and-forty parochial churches [parishes] all now submerged, between the Mount and the Isles of Scilly’ [1]


The ‘mount’ here refers to the tidal island of St Michael’s Mount off Marazion, around which submerged forest deposits are found. Its Cornish name means ‘the grey rock in the wood’, implying that it was formerly dry land surrounded by forest.

Admiralty Chart Cornwall.tif

The bathymetry of Lyonesse summarised to show only the 10, 20 and 50m contours, based on UK Admiralty Charts 1123 and 2675. The sea-bed to the south and west of Land’s End drops away sharply, but it may be seen that flat areas exist between 20-50m depths to the north of Penwith; and also a shallow rise between the Seven Stones and Longships reefs. However, the Isles of Scilly are separated from the mainland by a deeper channel. [click map for link]

From the Elizabethan era we have the version of the map-maker John Norden (1548-1625) who in his Description of Cornwall refers-to: ‘the supposed drowned lande of Lioness’. [2] These lands, he says, according to tradition and the stories told by seafarers, were ‘swallowed-up by the devouring sea’. Norden’s version would localise the lost land to the vicinity of the Seven Stones reef off Land’s End, which in the Cornish language was called Lethowsow: ‘milky-white rocks’.

The monk Florence of Worcester also describes a coastal inundation in his chronicle of events for the year 1099. [3]


‘On the third of the Nones of November the sea overflowed the shore, destroying towns and drowning many persons and innumerable oxen and sheep’.


Although sometimes linked with folklore of the lost city of Langarrow – said to lie beneath Crantock beach – there is nothing to directly connect the 1099 event with Lyonesse. It could record a severe winter storm surge, or perhaps a tsunami, like that from the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.


Lyonesse would attain popular notoriety due to the brief description published in William Camden’s Britannia of 1586, which most commentators believe influenced map-maker Richard Carew’s Survey of Cornwall. [4][5] Camden refers to ‘Lionesse’ as formerly extending out from the rocks of Land’s End, where once stood a lighthouse to guide ancient mariners.


Yet other timeless traditions would tell of the survivor Trevilian who escaped the sudden inundation on his horse, ahead of the waves. There must, of course, always be a survivor to witness the tragic events! Some versions however, would associate him with the 1099 event recorded by Florence; all these details become rather mixed-up in the popular retelling of a very few real facts.


From Brittany, A similar legend is told about the lost city of Ker-Is, which in Breton means ‘the low-city’. The tale describes a city submerged in the Bay of Douarnenez, as told by the local fishermen. There are many variants, which would attest to how old the story is. The earliest extant version is recorded in Albert le Grand’s ‘Lives of the Saints of Armorican Brittany’ published in 1637. [6]


The story remembers King Gralon, who built a city and palace on land reclaimed behind sea-walls and sluices. His wayward daughter Dahut stole the keys and in her folly she opened the sluices allowing the sea to pour in. Gralon was warned by an appearance of Saint Gwenole and tried to rescue his daughter, but she fell from the horse (or was thrown) into the sea. Le Grand’s version is somewhat simpler; the saint warns Gralon that God intends to punish the inhabitants for their sins and he flees on horseback before a great storm inundates the city – but the blame still falls upon the reckless princess! The death of Gwenole is elsewhere recoded as AD 532 and would therefore serve to date the associated legends to the sixth century.


For those who would focus upon the Arthurian links there is a parallel that Douarnenez lies in the Brittany province of Finistère, which is of course the French equivalent of English: ‘land’s end’. It is therefore postulated that perhaps the memory of a lost land was transferred from Brittany to Cornwall by scholarly monks during the early evolution of the story. [7]


The precise etymology of the name Lyonesse is obscure; the legend itself is likely older than its name. It is found in the fifteenth-century fiction of Sir Thomas Malory. In Le Morte d’Arthur, Lyonesse becomes the birthplace of the character Tristan; this in turn builds-upon timeless legends that he came from the lands around Saint-Pol-de-Léon, on the north coast of Finisterre. This fiction augmented older folklore in circulation about King Arthur and brought him into a contemporary medieval setting.


While we are less concerned here with King Arthur and his knights, he cannot be entirely divorced from the enquiry. The historical Arthur (or Ambrosius Aurelianus) is believed to have flourished in the sixth-century dark-age following the withdrawal of Roman rule from Britain; so much so that the entire interlude has come to be known as the ‘Arthurian Period’. We find semi-legendary accounts of this era in the pseudo-history of Nennius, but evidence for the existence of a real ‘Arthur-figure’, who resisted the Saxon invasion, is elusive. [8] His existence, at this period, relies upon the dating of the Battle of Badon Hill (near Bath) as described in the contemporary account of Gildas and dated at AD 516 by the Welsh Annals. [9] On such fragile connections then, rests the supposed submergence of Lyonesse at this same era.


The interchange of folklore and myth between Cornwall and Brittany does have solid historical foundations. We know from Caesar’s commentaries that the maritime Gaulish tribes, the Veneti and Osismi, were regularly trading with Britain, probably as part of the ancient tin trade. [10] Later sources tell us of the migration of Britons from Cornwall and further north, into Brittany, from the late Roman period onward into the fifth and sixth centuries, to escape the invading Saxons. [11]


So we see a chicken-and-egg problem. Were the legends of sunken cities and lost lands transferred from Cornwall to Brittany along with the Cornish settlers? Or could the legends actually be older and reached Britain through earlier exchanges with the maritime Gaulish tribes? A third possibility is that they evolved independently from common ancient roots.


The association of Lyonesse, with the Isles of Scilly and the submerged sea-bed between the islands are an additional factor to add complexity. These were most likely the Cassiterides or Tin Islands of classical writers. The antiquarian William Borlase in 1753 noticed lines of stones running between the islets around the Isle of Samson and believed that they could be man-made field walls; indeed it is still possible to walk between some of the islets at the very lowest tides. [12] Scilly has Neolithic chambered cairns similar to those of Penwith and so it reasonable to conclude that they were built by the same people; and by inference that the ‘field walls’ may be of similar age. A Neolithic passage grave at Er-Lannic on the Brittany coast now lies on the beach; and another lies half-submerged off Westward-Ho!, Devon; this must attest to a rise of sea level by at least a few metres since these monuments were built. However, this is not of the same order as a regression by over 60m that would be required to link the Isles of Scilly to Cornwall.


A recent archaeology survey entitled The Lyonesse Project studied the sea bed around the Isles of Scilly. [13] Part of their conclusions was that the present configuration of the islands was ‘largely formed by the end of the early Bronze Age’ but that the intertidal zone was formerly more extensive. A submerged forest was discovered in 2006 by a diving expedition in St Mary’s Roads, between the main islands; the deposits showed signs of human clearance of the oak/birch forests. Radiocarbon dates from the same project showed them to date from the ‘later Mesolithic’ between 5310-5050 cal BC. The study did not seek former shorelines beyond 10m below modern sea level, although these must exist from earlier in the Holocene if current theories of Ice Age and Holocene sea-level change are accepted. During the last glacial maximum, sea-levels were some 120m lower than today.


Although the authors of the Lyonesse Project annexe the popular name and summarise the legends (to display thoroughness) the study shows the typical trivialisation of the folklore. It is distressing to see wording such as: “Although much of this can be dismissed as fantasy…” within a scientific report. Folklore is not fantasy; it is degraded and half-forgotten history and as such deserves more respect than it receives in academic circles.


In 1957, at the end of a long career as keeper of geology for the National Museum of Wales, Frederick John North examined all the legends of sunken lands around the British coast and published them in his landmark study Sunken Cities. [14] His thorough analysis would conclude that Lyonesse was one of several localisations of a single ancient inundation that occurred somewhere along the west coast of Britain. The degree of variation and repetition between the local legends would suggest a long period of oral preservation before being recorded; and this confusion would then be compounded by misunderstandings in medieval map-making.


So is it possible to add anything new on the subject of Lyonesse? Anyone who wishes to pursue the medieval folklore, or the influence that it had on Arthurian literature, will find many other discussions and articles. However, here, I shall explore a much older inspiration for all these legends based on a cross-disciplinary approach.


An interesting intrusion that is not usually associated with Lyonesse comes from the sixth century historian Procopius in his History of the Wars. Writing of the Gothic Wars of AD 536-532 he offers us a remarkable aside into the myths of the people living along the Brittany coast at that era. [15] Although he lived in far-away Palestine and was confused in his geography of Britain he is one of our few historical sources for this dark period. He refers to an island called Brittia, which he presumed to lie beyond the former Roman province of Britannia, inhabited by both Britons and Angles. This latter detail is enough to tell us that ‘Brittia’ was probably the region of Southern Scotland between the two Roman walls: British Strathclyde and Anglian Bernicia; from here too, he tells us, the Britons were migrating to Gaul.


Procopius describes a custom among the fisherman and sea-traders along the coast of Gaul, who at that era were subject to the Franks. Since ancient times they were charged with the duty to ferry the souls of the recently deceased to the west of Britain. We may be sure that such a voyage was purely symbolic – for the crossing took less than an hour when transporting the souls, yet a full day and a night in normal circumstances. The souls of the dead, he says, ‘were always conveyed to this place’. We may recognize here the Celtic ‘otherworld’, the Tír Na nÓg or Tir fo Thuinn of Irish myth: the land beneath the wave.


The significance here is that Procopius wrote at the same era as the historical Arthur is thought to have lived. He only includes the myth as an aside to his history because ‘it was constantly being published by countless persons’ and he did not wish to gain a reputation for ignorance of the custom. He makes no mention of King Arthur, or Lyonesse, or of any recently submerged cities. We may see that the legends of lost lands beneath the western sea were already so ancient by the sixth century that they had penetrated the religious mythology and funeral rites.


Other strange references from Celtic sources supplement this mythology of a sunken land. In the strange ‘Prophecies of Merlin’ as included in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘History of the Kings of Britain’ we find another reference to a time of lowered sea levels. [16] The prophecies predict that the strait which separates Britain from Gaul will be reduced to a narrow channel, such that a man on either shore might shout to one on the other. If we accept Geoffrey’s claim to have taken his history from a lost Welsh book then it must recall an ancient epoch, when the sea level in the English Channel was much lower. According to Merlin’s final prediction, winds and storms would prevail when the sea returns. We find these same fears voiced in the thirteenth-century: Lament for Llewellyn Ap Gruffudd, which compared the death of the last independent king of Wales to a natural calamity: ‘…why, O my God does the sea not cover the land?’ [17] We may ask what lies at the root of such strange ideas. Note that in the Celtic legends, the flood it is always an overflow of the sea; this is not the Biblical Deluge of Noah.


Other legends of sunken cities are abundant around the Welsh coast. As with Ker-Is these are too many and various to explore in detail when our focus should remain upon Cornwall, but the similarities must be highlighted. Most well known from the Welsh Triads is the legend of Cantrae’r Gwaelod (the Lowland Hundred) in Cardigan Bay, also known as Maes Gwyddno (Gwyddno’s Plain); we are told that Gwyddno was the king of Cardigan at that time. The legend recalls sixteen cities, submerged in Cardigan Bay, supposedly during the time of Ambrosius. The blame is laid upon Seithenyn, the warden of the sluices (and an arrant drunkard according to another triad) who forgot to close the gates one night. [18]

Cities Map.jpg

The similarities with the Cornish and Breton legends are immediately apparent; the cities lie below sea level behind sea-walls and Seithenyn replaces Dahut as the villain who opened the gates. However, the drowning of sixteen cities is more reminiscent of the version of Lyonesse recorded by William of Worcester, who gives a hundred and forty submerged ‘parishes’. In both cases we may see that the memory is of a substantial tract of flat land that was rapidly inundated. The preservation of precise numbers in a legend also confers a degree of authenticity; a fiction need only mention ‘many cities’ or refer to a vague area of submerged land.


a chart showing the principal sites of legendary sunken cities and submergences around the west of Britain.

The Welsh triads and the prose stories of the Mabinogi, so the Welsh linguists tell us, began to be written down shortly after the departure of Roman authority from Britain. Another triad, the Exeter Triad, is preserved only in Latin translation within the thirteenth-century Chronicle of Wales. [19]


These are the kingdoms which the sea destroyed. The kingdom of Teithi Hen…That kingdom was called at the time the Realm of Teithi Hen it was between St Davids and Ireland. No one escaped from it, neither men nor animals, except Teithi Hen alone with his horse.

  The second kingdom was that of Helig son of Glannog, it was between Cardigan and Bardsey and as far as St Davids. That land was fertile and level and was called Maes Maichgen; it lay from the mouth (of the Ystwyth?) to Llyn, and up to Aberdovey.

  The sea destroyed a third kingdom: the kingdom of Rhedfoe son of Rheged.


We may see again the localisation of the root-legends that should now be familiar. Like Trevilian in Cornwall and Gralon in Brittany, here it is Teithi the Old who escapes on a horse. The second kingdom is recognisable as another version of Cantrae’r Gwaelod in mid-Wales, but was ruled by Helig rather than Gwyddno. We are not told where Rhedfoe’s kingdom lay; or indeed whether all these inundations were contemporary. However, Rheged was the kingdom of the North Britons in Galloway and Cumbria – the ‘Brittia’ of Procopius.


More details of the Welsh legends are preserved in the stories of the Mabinogion; medieval prose compositions that are clearly much older in origin. In the mabinogi of How Culhwch won Olwen, we again encounter Teithi Hen described as he: ‘whose kingdom the sea overran’; again supposedly in the era of Arthur. In the story of Branwen Daughter of Llyr we hear of the giant Bran and his army, who was able to walk from Wales to Ireland by crossing only two rivers, ‘but thereafter the sea widened and overflowed the kingdoms’. [20] We see again a vague memory of a much wider submergence event than the loss of a single city. The confused details within the Mabinogi betray a long period of oral transmission and reworking by storytellers, who lacked an understanding of the history upon which they were based.


Although F.J. North could convincingly explain some localisations of the submergence legends by mistakes in medieval mapping, he concluded that the degree of divergence between the stories showed the era of the sunken cities to be much older. The Exeter Triad, albeit a Latin translation of a lost Welsh source, must be far older than any medieval map. We may see that it was not just one city but entire ‘kingdoms’ that were lost to the sea. The triads must be pre-Christian and even pre-Roman in inspiration; they were intended for oral transmission and only frozen in their present forms when eventually written down in medieval Wales. Many more historical triads as well as prose must have been lost over the centuries.


Another source of information is the Roman geographer Strabo (63 BC – AD 25); he cast doubt upon the comments of Poseidonius who wrote a world history in the early first century BC. Poseidonius certainly visited Britain and Gaul himself, but mere fragments of his work survive in citations by later authors. In discussing the rising and settling processes of the Earth, Strabo remarks that Poseidonius believed Plato’s account of the sinking of Atlantis and the description of Britain given by Pytheas. [21] The ultra-conservative Strabo would accept neither! He also attributes the migration of the Germanic Cimbri (around 110 BC) to ‘an inundation of the sea that came on all of a sudden’. [22] It is unfortunate that we don’t possess more from the histories of Poseidonius; we may wonder if he too knew about the Celtic legends of lands and cities, lost to the sea.


At 335 BC we are told of Alexander the Great and his meeting with Celtic emissaries on the Danube, prior to embarking on his Persian wars. [23] He enquired of the Celts what they feared most, and received the surprising reply that they feared no-one, only that the sky might fall on their heads! This has been likened to an early version of the Irish Oath, which voices similar fears and continues: “If we fulfil not our engagement…may the sea, overflowing its borders, drown us”. These same fears recur in the first-century epic: Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). This would suggest that the dread of a sudden inundation by the sea must be at least as old as the era when Celtic-speakers reached Ireland, certainly long before the time of Alexander.


Elsewhere in Irish legend we find references to ‘the illimitable seaburst’ and Ireland’s ‘three great floods’ together with their associated folklore. These perhaps formed a triad, similar to those from Wales. [24] The legends tell of Clidna’s Flood (Tonn Cliodna or ‘Cleena’s Wave’) together with Ladru’s Flood and Baille’s Flood. Other than the drowning of the unfortunate princess we have little additional detail. However, unlike the Welsh triads we are told that the floods occurred at different times. It should be apparent that any extreme waves that afflicted the Irish coast must also have struck along the west of Britain.


The case for an Iron Age invasion of Britain and Ireland by continental Celts is no longer as certain as it formerly seemed. Linguists now prefer to describe only ‘Insular Celtic’ and ‘Continental Celtic’ languages, rather than a racial grouping; so the memory of an ancient inundation must be older than the era when the Celtic languages began to separately evolve. Modern DNA evidence now places the influx of people with Steppe-ancestry into the core-Celtic regions as early as 2800 BC, with further genetic evidence that they did not intermingle with the earlier Neolithic population until several centuries later. [25] Historical comparisons suggest that native cultures persist until there is a language shift and people begin to forget their former identity (or perhaps it is suppressed by the dominant culture). It is reasonable to suppose that the legends of ‘sunken cities’ were preserved among the native population of the Atlantic coast rather than by Celtic-speaking intruders from the east. The linguistic evolution therefore pushes the origin of the flood legends back into the Neolithic and early Bronze Age, before the Celtic languages diverged.


The ‘Celtic’ mythology, of which Lyonesse is a part, survives from the oral history of the Bards. From Poseidonius, via Strabo and Diodorus, we have a description of the Bards as one of the three elites in Gaulish society, along with the Druids and the Vates. The Bards were poets and singers who recorded history in their oral chants. [26] From Caesar’s commentaries we learn that the Druid order originated in Britain and that their initiates were forbidden to write anything down. [27] This, in-part explains the incomplete preservation of the flood stories, which have survived Roman and Christian suppression of the old religion. We should be grateful that anything remains, but their historical sequence has been lost. We may also see that Lyonesse and the Welsh sunken cities are associated with the era of the hero Arthur, but we cannot know for certain when that was. The Arthur whom we encounter in the Welsh Mabinogi bears little resemblance to the Arthur of later literature; it may be that he is a composite-figure of legend, to whom numerous events, including the submergences, have become attached.


All around the coasts of Britain and Ireland, sea-level researchers find the physical evidence of submerged forests. Although these date from various eras, we may see that they are all of Neolithic age or earlier. Young trees and other land vegetation cannot grow in a salt-water environment. The preservation of tree-stumps, fallen trunks and peat layers beneath beach-sand imply that they grew on dry land and the mature forests were rapidly covered by sand, before they could decay. Furthermore, we can be sure that much of the modern coastline has changed little since Roman times. We know from Diodorus Siculus (first-century BC) that St Michael’s Mount was already a tidal island called Ictis, to which ships would arrive to buy the Cornish tin. [28] Radiocarbon dates for the submerged forest around St Michael’s Mount give ages between 4000 and 6000 BP, all far older than the sixth-century when the submergence of Lyonesse is usually placed. [29]


Submerged forests from Cardigan Bay give radiocarbon dates ranging from 5500 BP for the tree stumps around Borth, to 3500 BP at nearby Ynyslas. In the Bristol Channel the deposits at Stolford date from 5398-5020 BP and those around the dolmen at Westward-Ho in Devon gave 6500 BP. Other dates from the submerged forest deposits of the east coast are typically older, associated with the flooding of the North Sea land-bridge. By the very nature of submerged forests deposits we can infer that these were rapid transgressions rather than a gradual encroachment of the sea. The date of submergence cannot be older than the forests. The evidence from the western coasts therefore suggests a cluster of dates in the Middle Neolithic around five thousand years ago, together with a later episode around 1500 BC.


Could folk-memory really survive from such remote eras? If we look further back, to the Mesolithic, we find the acceptance by archaeologists of the Maglemosian Culture since the early twentieth century; a community of hunter-gatherers who lived both in northern England and Denmark, before the flooding of the North Sea separated them sometime between 9,000 and 6,000 years ago. However it is only quite recently that archaeologists have dared to consider that during the period of 3,000 years when Doggerland was above the waves, people may actually have lived on what is now the floor of the North Sea! [30] This is rather obvious when you think about it. It is only a small leap of imagination from there to see the possibility of settlements of similar age on the now submerged land to the west of Britain. It is a question of when, not if. It is a much greater leap of imagination for archaeologists to perceive a fairy-tale Arthurian Lyonesse in the flints and pottery that they find.  Some extreme theorists such as Koudriavtsev and author David Furlong would even seek to locate Plato’s Atlantis deep in the Celtic Sea off Cornwall at the close of the Ice Age. [31][32] Perhaps there is no need to go back quite that far to find the roots of the Lyonesse legend.


As with the Lyonesse Project mentioned above, we may see that archaeologists and others are quick to ‘dismiss’ legends and traditions when they don’t fit their conclusions, yet they will employ them where they confirm their views. Take this example, from a paper of 2010, on the subject of Irish monuments and myths. [33]


Societies frequently explain the origin of distinctive features in the landscape by weaving them into a mythological narrative…Some mythic places exist primarily in the imagination. England’s Camelot and the Irish Tír na nÓg are as much utopian states of being as physical locations.  Where imaginary worlds feature in the lore of a society, their interface with day-to-day life is often linked with mysterious features in the local countryside.


This quotation is from an archaeologist, who is actively seeking to equate legend with archaeology, yet even here we see the ‘dismissive’ mind-set; he still prefers to see ancient fiction rather than degraded and jumbled memories of real places.  One may find statements of this kind in many specialist papers. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish whether this predisposition is the true opinion of an academic researcher, or if it is merely the safe thing to say to ensure that their papers are published. Until this attitude changes we are unlikely to see any real attempt by archaeologists to investigate the submerged archaeology of the offshore basins.



We may see that the legends of submergence fall into two groups: the first type describes the overwhelming of large tracts of land with towns and cities; the second is a lesser event, typically with more detail, remembering the inundation of a single low-lying city. The Lyonesse legends would therefore fall into the first grouping.


We see in the Lyonesse story, an example of a composite myth, formed by the merger of similar-sounding ancient events and characters. Somewhere around the coast of Britain there was a rapid flooding of a low-lying coastal city (or perhaps more than one). However, the details and characters have been combined, during the evolution of the folklore, with memories of a much earlier and wider submergence of land off the western coasts. It is this earlier event that lies at the root of the legends of sunken kingdoms and the land of the dead beneath the waves. It may even be that details and characters associated with more recent tsunamis or severe winter storms have also become entangled in the retelling of the ancient stories. Such is the nature of oral myths and legends. It is only when a story is finally written down that it becomes fixed.


The physical evidence tells us that we should seek the lost lands in an ancient era. Perhaps as far back as the end of the Ice Age; but more likely the submergence of the kingdoms and settlements, was linked with the same mid-Neolithic event that left the submerged forests around British and Irish coasts. We may see that the submergence, whatever the cause, was sudden and catastrophic rather than a gradual transgression from polar ice melt; neither could it describe a tsunami, as the submergence was permanent. To find the flat plains with cities, as they are described, then we would have to look further-out on the sea floor, perhaps as far as 30-50m depths. Perhaps one or more cities closer to the modern coastline survived this flood and were protected behind sea walls, only to fall victim to a later inundation.


It may be that there is no lost city lying off Cornwall and it should be sought in one of the other places; but as Frederick North suggested, the memory of a lost land has been transferred to Land’s End in the retelling. If we should look on the navigation charts then we may see that there is no flat region on the sea-bed off Land’s End that could hold a hundred and forty settlements; more likely these could lie off the north coast of Cornwall, or remember a wider submergence around the west of Britain. Rather than drowned Christian churches from the sixth century we may find Neolithic sites of worship, like the dolmens and passage graves of Penwith and Scilly.


I would like to think, that if Frederick North had also had the benefit of radiocarbon dates, back in the 1950’s, then he too would have come to similar conclusions. It is absurd to suggest that ancient people would invent a fiction about sunken cities, merely to explain the presence of tree trunks on a beach, or some rocks lying off the Cornish coast. Even more unlikely that people in diverse regions should each independently adopt a belief that the sea might suddenly rise-up and drown the land. After all, no-one would dream of such a thing happening today, would they?


Notes and References

1 Harvey, John ed. (1969). Itineraries [of] William Worcester: edited from the unique MS Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Oxford Medieval Texts. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0198222033

2 Norden, John (1650) A Topographical and Historical Description of Cornwall; Published in facsimile by Frank Graham, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1966

3 The Chronicle of Florence of Worcester, translated by Thomas Forester, A.M. Bohn, 1854.

4 Camden, W (1586) Britannia, published in online translation at:

5 Carew, R (1602) The Survey of Cornwall; republished in 2000 by Tamar Books, Redruth, Cornwall

6 Le Grande, Albert (1637) Lives of the Saints of Armorial Brittany [link to text]

7 The Isles of Scilly, Lost Peaks of Lyonesse? In Seidkona’s Hearth:

8 Nennius, 56

9 Gildas, 25, 3

10 Caesar, III, 7-11

11 Procopius, History of the Wars, VIII, xx, 7-9

12 William Borlase, An Account of the Great Alterations which the Islands of Scilly have undergone since  the Time of the Ancients,  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, No. 48. 1753

13 Dan Charman, Charlie Johns, Kevin Camidge, Peter Marshall, Steve F Mills, Jacqui Mulville, Helen M Roberts (2014) The Lyonesse Project: a study of the coastal and marine environment of the Isles of Scilly (OASIS ID cornwall2-58903) [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

14 F.J. North (1957) Sunken Cities, University of Wales Press, Cardiff

15 Procopius, History of the Wars, VIII, 7-9; and 47-58

16 Thorpe, Lewis (1966) Geoffrey of Monmouth – The History of the Kings of Britain, Penguin, Harmondsworth

17 Conran, Tony (translator) (1986) Welsh Verse, Poetry Wales Press, Bridgend, p 163

18 Bromwich, Rachel (1950) Cantrae’r Gwaelod and Ker-Is, in Fox & Dickens (eds) The Early Cultures of North West Europe, pp 217-241

19 Bromwich, Rachel (1978) Troiedd Ynys Prydein – The Welsh Triads, University of Wales Press, Cardiff

20 Ganz, Jeffrey (1976) The Mabinogion, Penguin, Harmondsworth

21 Strabo, Geography, 2.3.6

22 ibid

23 Arrian, I,iv

24 Peate Cross, T. & Harris Slover, C. (eds) (1935) Ancient Irish Tales, George, G. Harrap & Co Ltd, London.

25 Furtwängler, A., Rohrlach, A.B., Lamnidis, T.C. et al. Ancient genomes reveal social and genetic structure of Late Neolithic Switzerland. Nat Commun 11, 1915 (2020).

26 Strabo, Geography, 4.4.4;

27 Julius Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul, VI, 16, 5, 13-14

28 Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, V, 22, 2-4

29 Sources of these radiocarbon dates are listed at:



32 Furlong, David (1997) The Keys to the Temple, Piatkus, London

33 O´Sullivan, Muiris, Megalithic tombs and storied landscapes in Neolithic Ireland, pp53-66 in Martin Furholt et al (eds)  Megaliths and Identities: Early Monuments and Neolithic Societies from the Atlantic to the Baltic, 3rd European Megalithic Studies Group Meeting 13th – 15th of May 2010 at Kiel University.


Tags: sea level change, submerged forest, catastrophism, sea-levels, ancient climate, Lyonesse, Ker-Is, sunken cities


Citation: Dunbavin, Paul, (2020) Lyonesse - Lost, Prehistory Papers, pp 178-195, Third Millennium, ISBN: 978-0-9525029-4-4

Copyright: Paul Dunbavin & Third Millennium Publishing, V 1.1 June 2020