Archeologists are urging others to dig deep to help them keep digging at one of Europe's most important Ice Age sites, and stop our Neanderthal ancestors' secrets from being lost forever to cliff falls and erosion.
Société Jersiaise, which owns La Cotte de St. Brelade at Ouaisné, and Jersey Heritage, which is responsible for the site’s conservation, have jointly launched a fundraising campaign to help preserve the iconic site.
A new website dedicated to the La Cotte Project has been created so that people can easily donate online. It includes information about ongoing work at the site, as well the history of La Cotte, which was home to Neanderthals living in Jersey thousands of years ago.
"La Cotte de St Brelade is a story waiting to be told," the site states. "We know it is one of the most important Ice Age sites in Europe, but we don’t yet know what secrets it holds. It’s time to find out and carry on the excavation."
Video: Before archaeologists can continue their work on the ancient site, the cliffs around La Cotte must be stabilised.
But before the archeologists can return to the site, work needs to be carried out to stabilise the cliffs, as long-term sea erosion has made accessing the area unsafe.
“La Cotte is one of the most important Ice Age sites in Europe," Alastair Best, President of the Société Jersiaise, commented.
"Its archaeological importance was first discovered in the 1880s and it has been the subject of research ever since. It has always attracted scholars and students from outside the Island but access to the site is only possible by the fearless and the athletic, and the sea side of the site has suffered from the endless barrage and erosion from the sea.”
Pictured: Archeologists are keen to return to the site to continue their work.
Construction work, funded by Jersey Heritage and the Société, is already well underway to make the cliffs safe and to protect the site from the sea. However, there is plenty more that needs to be done, now and in the future.
The creation of the sea wall is a significant engineering project. Dr Matt Pope, from the UCL Institute of Archaeology said it is also a vital one, due to rising sea levels and an increase in the likelihood of storms due to climate change.
“The La Cotte Project is protecting this internationally important site for understanding human evolution. It will give us, and hopefully future generations of archaeologists, time to fully explore this massive and significant Neanderthal site,” he said.
Pictured: Stabilising work needs to be carried out before archeologist can return to the site.
Dr Pope is keen to restart work on the site, hopefully this summer. “There has been a long history of discovery at La Cotte de St. Brelade, but each generation has had to deal with considerable risks from the sea and falling rocks to learn more about the Neanderthal people who lived here," he explained.
"The investment so far is transforming the headland into a stable and manageable, research-ready dig site. We’re very excited and honoured to be at the beginning of the next chapter of research at this iconic prehistoric site.”
No fundraising target has been set for the La Cotte Project, but it has already been boosted by a donation from the Association of Jersey Charities and Channel Islands Lottery as well as another from an anonymous benefactor.
Pictured: “La Cotte is a story waiting to be told," said Jon Carter, Chief Executive of Jersey Heritage.
“La Cotte is a story waiting to be told and it’s exciting to think that the next chapter of this project lies just around the corner," commented Jon Carter, Jersey Heritage’s Chief Executive.
"We have already funded the first phase of work to protect La Cotte for the future by making safe the cliffs and protecting the site from the sea. However, this work is ongoing and conservation of this important site is a long-term project.
“The new website makes it easy for people to find out information about La Cotte and it’s a quick and easy way to donate online. We really need everyone’s support for this project and hope that Islanders feel able to help us protect this important site.”
Pictured: Barbu, a current resident of Jersey Museum, who represents islanders' Neanderthal ancestors who made their home at La Cotte.
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