Thursday, 30 January 2014

La Cotte de St Brelade

From Feb to Sept 2014 a new exhibit will be on show at the Natural History Museum, London that highlights some of the research undertaken by scientist in St Andrews and elsewhere in the UK as part of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project over the last 10years.  Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story presents key material and evidence from a number of important sites in and around the UK that help to document the dramatic story of changing landscapes and the people who lived in them over the last million years.  Two of the sites that this major exhibition showcases have been the focus of research for the dept E&E over the last 5years.  La Cotte de St Brelade is briefly described here, Happisburgh has been presented in a previous blog and will be the focus of a future blog as new results are published.

La Cotte from the sea

La Cotte de St Brelade in Jersey is a cave site that contains a 250kyr record of human use.  Investigations have been conducted at the site over the last 100yrs but there still remains much material that has yet to be uncovered.  It’s position however, on the shore in a highly vulnerable situation, means that much of the material is in danger of being lost forever and the site has been subject to intense recent study under a NERC emergency project.

A geophysical programme was initiated in 2012 to survey the wider palaeo-environmental context of the site.  This included high resolution marine mapping combined with geophysical modelling to allow the archaeologists to drain away the sea and literally step back in time to walk through the ancient landscapes. 

The palaeolandscape was surveyed using multibeam sonar aboard two research vessels, a 15m research yacht, Gambo and also using my inshore craft, the zego boat.  The resulting landscape model shows a complex valley system offshore, through which the herds of game would have been forced along routes leading up to the dead-end valley infront of the cave site.


Watch as sea rises over the submerged landscape of eroded granite terrain and then fly over the valleys up to La Cotte to get a view looking out from the cave

The new views from the mammoth butchery cave site are providing alternate context for understanding the prolific finds that have been dug from the site over the last century. 

 Work continues at the site and in 2014 we hope to start exploring the relationships between landscape, geology and the geology of tool assemblages from the cave.

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