Institute of Archaeology


Royal Patron for La Cotte de St Brelade

13 July 2022

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has become Patron of the restoration project to protect and preserve the ancient site of La Cotte de St Brelade in Jersey.

Archaeologists led by Mathew Pope (UCL) excavating at the site of La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey (July 2022)

Jersey Heritage, the charity responsible for the management of the La Cotte site, announced their new Royal Patronage today. 

The exciting news provides a huge boost for the long-term project and comes at a time when archaeologists, led by Matthew Pope (UCL Institute of Archaeology/Archaeology South-East), return to the site at Ouaisné this week to restart excavation work for the first time since the pandemic began. 

HRH Prince Charles at La Cotte de St Brelade in 1968 (Image courtesy of the Société Jersiaise Photo Archive)

La Cotte, which is owned by the Société Jersiaise and managed by Jersey Heritage, was discovered in 1881 and is a key site in European prehistory, preserving one of the best records of Neanderthal behaviour from over a quarter of a million years ago.

His Royal Highness worked at the site when he joined excavations there in 1968 under the guidance of his Cambridge Professor, Charles McBurney. The Prince’s presence instantly raised the site’s profile internationally and has been a touchstone for its importance ever since.

Working with Jersey Heritage, Matthew's collaborative team initiated a new era of research at La Cotte in 2010. In addition to fieldwork, this included scientific studies of archaeological material from historic excavations, including fossil remains of Neanderthal people, now cared for by Jersey Heritage.

Matthew recently visited Jersey to carry out a survey at another Ice Age landscape, the Violet Bank, off the south east coast of the Island.  As they recommence their work at La Cotte, Matthew's team are working alongside Geomarine, which carried out the cliff stabilisation and sea wall work on behalf of Jersey Heritage and whose staff are on hand to ensure the archaeologists can safely access the prehistoric site via a 30m rope descent.

According to Matthew:

The Prince’s time with McBurney at La Cotte de St Brelade, working under challenging conditions, saw the future British monarch physically revealing the traces of Ice Age archaeology from the site. Reconnecting with that historic moment, over half a century later, and as the site is once more under excavation, is significant. It reminds us that understanding our shared past is an inter-generational endeavour.”

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