A story waiting to be told.

Help us discover it.

Jersey Heritage Société Jersiaise National Trust Jersey

La Cotte de St Brelade is a story waiting to be told. We know it is one of the most important Ice Age sites in Europe, but we don’t yet know what secrets it holds.

Archaeologists returned during the summer of 2019 but this was only the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the ancient site, which has the potential to surprise us with incredible new stories. It’s a big and exciting project and we need your help!

The return of the archaeologists was only possible after the cliffs above were made safe and the site was protected from the sea.

Working on a part of the site that hasn’t been accessible for 40 years, they were able to recover scientific dating samples and also found flint and quartz artifacts.

There is a long-term plan for stabilising the West Ravine and the team are now able to safely take on this complex and massive site, bringing it under new investigation and preserving it for the future.

The sea wall has been designed to protect the site from sea level rise and storm events during the next few decades, and this will give us time to discover more about this internationally important record of Neanderthal archaeology and leave the site intact or future generations to make their own discoveries.

By supporting the La Cotte project, you can help us get closer to uncovering the story of our ancient ancestors and tell the next chapter of the story. Help us to uncover the story by making a donation.

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Photograph of a model depicting how Barbu the Neanderthal may have looked

Meet Homo neanderthalensis - we call him Barbu. He is one of our ancient human ancestors, part of the Neanderthal population who lived in Europe until 40,000 years ago. La Cotte de St Brelade was a very important place to Barbu’s people.

It was a refuge to which they returned again and again, a home in which they made tools and clothing, shared food and from where they could watch animals moving across the lowlands.

La Cotte is home for our Neanderthal ancestors and the story of their lives is buried beneath the earth at one of the most important Neanderthal sites in North West Europe.

We can trace our history back to Barbu, to a time before our family histories were written down. We are part of a global human family that can be explored through our DNA. We asked four people living in Jersey to take part in a project to uncover the mystery of their own ancient ancestry and see how they are connected to Neanderthals, and ultimately the untold story of La Cotte de St Brelade. Watch the film to find out more. Film supported by Mary Venturini.

La Cotte de St Brelade (La Cotte) 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 in the Ice Age past.

Situated on a granite headland on Jersey’s south west coast, the collapsed cave and granite ravines of La Cotte de St Brelade provided a home for Neanderthal hunters-gatherers for over 200,000 years.

Since ancient stone tools were first found at the site in 1881, stunning discoveries have been made by successive generations of archaeologists. La Cotte provided early fossil evidence for Neanderthal people, exciting records of their use of fire, and heaps of bone which showed how they could work together to hunt Ice Age megafauna such as mammoth and woolly rhinoceros. It is now time for a new era of investigation and a new generation of archaeologists are about to embark on an exciting and ambitious programme of scientific research and discovery.

In 2010, the Ice Age Island team began to survey La Cotte de St Brelade, determining both that the site contained further Neanderthal archaeology and that it was under threat from significant coastal erosion. Since then, Jersey Heritage and the Société Jersiaise have worked with engineering teams from the Channel Islands and UK to transform the site into a place that is both safe to work in and secure from further damaging erosion. The engineering project represents a bold and innovative response to the effects of sea level rise and climate change and provides an opportunity to safeguard an internationally important scientific record. It has also opened the way for renewed large-scale archaeological research.

La Cotte de St Brelade preserves a unique record of our closest human relatives. Now, for the first time in the site’s history, it is possible to safely excavate within this massive site. In the summer of 2019 the Ice Age Island team will initiate the first stage of this project with a short intense season focussed on the west ravine. From this first season they will gain valuable information which will help shape a long-term project, bringing the west ravine under new understanding, leading to new discoveries, and protecting the archaeology.

During each Ice Age, the sea level falls as the planet’s ice caps grow, the sea bed around Jersey and across the English Channel becomes dry land.

Gallery

Meet the Ice Age Island Team working at La Cotte

The team, led by Dr Matt Pope (UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Dr Beccy Scott (The British Museum) comprises archaeologists and scientific specialists from the UK and Europe. As a team, they have been working in Jersey since 2009 on prehistoric archaeology across the Island, including La Cotte de St Brelade, Col de la Roq, Petit Portelet and Les Varines. Through this work, they’ve been able to share the exceptional prehistoric record of Jersey’s history with the wider world through lectures, TV documentaries, radio broadcasts and social media.

Dr Matt Pope

Dr Matt Pope works for the Institute of Archaeology at UCL, London. He studies early human behaviour and how prehistoric people adapted to changing environments. He is particularly interested in the evolution of human hunting behaviour and the use of landscape. He teaches the archaeology of human evolution and coordinates multidisciplinary field investigation. He is passionate about sharing the results of human origins research and explaining why understanding human adaptation is important to society.

Dr Beccy Scott

Dr Beccy Scott works in the Department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum, specialising in the behaviour of early Neanderthals in North West Europe. She is particularly interested in how Neanderthals came to ‘act like’ Neanderthals, using their stone tools to reconstruct how they moved within their landscapes, and modified their environments. Beccy investigates the texture of Neanderthal landscapes beyond river valleys and excavates sites on the upland interfluves of Southern Britain. She has studied Neanderthal technology from Britain, Northern France and Belgium, as part of the AHOB projects, and is the author of ‘Becoming Neanderthals’.

Jersey Heritage

Jersey Heritage is Gardien of the Island’s story. It cares for it, promotes access to it, brings imagination to telling its stories and inspires others to do the same. As an independent charitable organisation, it can only do this with support from the local community. Jersey Heritage plays a major role in the La Cotte project as it aims to share the stories of the ancient site and the Island’s earliest ancestors.

Société Jersiaise

The Société Jersiaise was founded in 1873 for the study of Jersey archaeology, history, natural history, the ancient language and the conservation of the environment. La Cotte is owned by the Société Jersiaise, which is committed to protect, conserve and realise the potential public heritage value of the internationally significant site of La Cotte de St. Brelade.

National Trust Jersey

La Cotte de St Brelade is one of only two historic sites in Jersey in which the Island’s three main conservation organisations have a shared interest. The La Cotte cave is owned by the Société Jersiaise, leased to Jersey Heritage, whilst the surrounding land and coastal landscape is cared for by The National Trust. All three organisations understand the immense historic, archaeological and cultural value of La Cotte, both in terms of our Island’s heritage and Europe as a whole.

If you are interested in helping us with the La Cotte project but have a query, please contact Bronwen Garth-Thornton via email or phone on (01534) 633313.