Institute researchers assess storm damage at Neanderthal site

25 February 2014

La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey

Institute researchers are part of a collaborative team commissioned to assess the effects of recent storms on the Neanderthal site of La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey.

The Société Jersiaise who owns the site of La Cotte de St Brelade commissioned the British archaeological team to assess the effects on it of recent storms. The team travelled recently to Jersey to determine what effect the combination of repeated south westerly storms had upon the sediments preserved at the site, sediments which preserve some the richest Neanderthal archaeology in Northern Europe.

The site which has been investigated since the late 19th century has produced rich finds comprising hundreds of thousands of Neanderthal tools, piles of butchered mammoth bones and fossil human remains. However as the site is situated in a very exposed location, erosion has been a long term concern. 

According to Neil Molyneux, President of the Société Jersiaise:

  • "The scale of this year’s storms was such that it required a proactive response to the management of the site. This assessment, funded directly by the Société, is the first stage in that process.  The second stage will be the removal of deposits at risk which will be undertaken in conjunction with Jersey Heritage.

Over the past 3 years the site has been under renewed study by a team of British academics and scientists, including the Institute's Matt Pope, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The team are currently working on the La Cotte archive as part of a project looking at Neanderthal behaviour funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Last October the team published findings which showed that the site still contained abundant deposits spanning the period in which Neanderthals apparently became extinct and modern humans moved into Ice Age Europe. It is exactly these sediments which are likely to have been affected by the storms and require assessment.

As Matt has indicated:

  • "Through our NERC funded research we are now in a position to understand the threatened archaeology and consider the best solution for its long-term preservation. Working with the Société Jersiaise, Jersey Heritage, and the States of Jersey Planning Department to help shape their future management of the site has now emerged as the next important phase in the project. La Cotte is a very special and unique place and it is great to be part of the island’s response to ensure it is preserved for future generations."

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