Press Releases 2014-2015

UWTSD Academic Supports Effort to Preserve Jersey’s Neanderthal Archaeology

10.03.2014

A University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) academic is co-directing a British archaeological team who are assessing the effects of recent storms on the Neanderthal site of La Cotte de St Brelade in Jersey.

Dr Martin Bates, a geoarchaeologist at UWTSD in Lampeter, and the team were commissioned by Société Jersiaise to determine what effect the combination of repeated south westerly storms had upon the sediments preserved at the site; sediments which preserve some of the richest Neanderthal archaeology in Northern Europe.

The Société Jersiaise has owned the site since 1955, when it was purchased from La Dame de Noirmont. It has been the subject of archaeological investigation since the late 19th century and has produced rich finds comprising hundreds of thousands of Neanderthal tools, piles of butchered mammoth bones and fossil human remains.

Dr Martin Bates said: “Climate has been eroding La Cotte for at least 250,000 years and certainly small-scale erosion continued throughout the 20th century. This winter’s storms were particularly intense and we should expect to see areas of active erosion of the site’s archaeology.
“Over the past three years the site has been under renewed study and last October findings were published 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.”

Fellow researcher Dr Matt Pope, from the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, said: “Through our Natural Environment Research Council-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.”

Neil Molyneux, President of the Société, said: “The site sits in a very exposed location and erosion has been a long-term concern. 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.”

Dr Bates hit the headlines recently as it was revealed that he had found the earliest evidence of human footprints outside of Africa. He discovered a series of footprints left by early humans in ancient estuary muds over 800,000 years ago at Happisburgh in Norfolk, which are direct evidence of the earliest known humans in northern Europe.

Note to Editor

  1. For more information or to interview Dr Martin Bates please contact Steven Stokes, Senior PR and Communications Officer, on 07872 423788 or email steven.stokes@sm.uwtsd.ac.uk
  2. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David was established in 2010 through the merger of the University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College, Carmarthen. On 1 August 2013 the Swansea Metropolitan University merged with the University.
  3. The University’s Royal Charter 1828 is the oldest in Wales, and it is third behind Oxford and Cambridge in Wales and England. HRH Prince of Wales is the Patron of the University.
  4. On 1 August, 2013 Coleg Sir Gâr merged with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David Group, however they will keep their own brand. Coleg Ceredigion merged with the Group on 1 January 2014.

Further Information

For more information or to interview Dr Martin Bates please contact Steven Stokes, Senior PR and Communications Officer, on 07872 423788 or email steven.stokes@sm.uwtsd.ac.uk