The exciting news provides a huge boost for the long-term project and comes at a time when archaeologists return to the site at Ouaisné this week to restart excavation work for the first time since the pandemic began.
Jon Carter, Jersey Heritage’s Chief Executive, said: “We are incredibly grateful to The Prince of Wales for accepting our invitation to become Patron of Jersey Heritage’s La Cotte de St Brelade Archaeological Project and are sure the news will be a tremendous boost to gathering interest in, and support for, the next crucial stage of this important project.
“Rising sea levels and storms continue to be a threat to this ancient heritage site and we know these are issues close to the Prince’s heart, having read archaeology at Cambridge University – which included taking part in excavation work at La Cotte itself – and having been a long-time campaigner to raise awareness of global warming and climate change.
“Vital stabilisation work that we have carried out at the site means that archaeologists are able to work there again and although it has already revealed so much about its incredible Ice Age past since it was first discovered over 140 years ago, La Cotte has the potential to surprise us with incredible new stories. We are delighted The Prince of Wales has reaffirmed his connection with the site and it an honour to have him as Patron as we embark on this new chapter for La Cotte, which we hope will help to draw attention to its international significance.”
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.
Archaeologists have returned to La Cotte for a three-week season of excavation work at the site, having been unable to excavate there since 2019 due to the pandemic. The team is led by Dr Matt Pope, of the UCL Institute of Archaeology, who was recently in the Island to carry out a survey at another Ice Age landscape, the Violet Bank, off the south east coast of the Island. Working with Jersey Heritage, Dr Pope’s team initiated a new era of research at La Cotte in 2010. In additional to fieldwork, this included scientific studies of archaeological material from historic excavations, including fossil remains of Neanderthal people, now cared for by Jersey Heritage.
As they recommence their work, Dr Pope’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.
Dr Pope said: “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.”