The North Sea was dry during the Mesolithic period, and inhabitants at the time hunted in the flood plains now located deep beneath the ocean. Sea levels rose throughout the millennia and settled at their current level at the end of the Neolithic period. The rising water levels drove away inhabitants, and this is why there are not many traces of the Stone Age by the Wadden Sea. However, there are copious prehistoric traces from the periods that followed. These bear witness to the sizeable population of the area at the time.
The salt marshes brought wealth
The reason for this is to be found in the rich salt marshes that were created once the coastline stabilised during the Bronze Age. The sea deposited layer upon layer of clay along the flat coastal area. The deposits later became a godsend to farmers by the Wadden Sea. The clay enriched the earth and made it possible to keep large livestock herds, which meant wealth and food for many people. The salt marshes have been densely populated since the Iron Age. There are many traces of bygone farmyards, particularly along the edge of the geests, where the salt marshes meet the higher-lying dry land.
A class society
Some of the many findings from the Iron Age bear witness to the already great class divide in society between the rich and powerful and ordinary people. An impressive Iron-Age hall has been excavated near Dankirke, south of Ribe, which burned to the ground in 500 AD. Before it burnt down, the hall would have been able to accommodate huge gatherings of people.