Powering the dig with a solar rig

Cutting edge technology will play a vital role discovering more about Jersey’s Ice Age past this summer, with a solar powered generator being used at the Les Varines dig site thanks to Jersey Electricity.

Cutting edge technology will play a vital role discovering more about Jersey’s Ice Age past this summer, with a solar powered generator being used at the Les Varines dig site.

The generator, which has been funded by Jersey Electricity, will enable archaeologists to complete more of their painstaking work on site and minimise the waste of time and costs.

This is the fourth year of the Ice Age Island project in which Jersey Heritage, in partnership with the National Trust for Jersey and the Société Jersiaise, have worked with the world’s Ice Age experts and seen Jersey emerge as one of the leading locations of Ice Age Archaeology.

This month an international team of archaeologists, researchers and students, led by Dr Matt Pope of UCL, returns to the Les Varines dig site where evidence of a rare hunters’ camp from around 14,500 years ago has already been discovered, including what is thought to be some of the oldest pieces of art discovered in Britain.

One of these pieces now forms part of the Jersey: Ice Age Island exhibition on display at Jersey Museum, sponsored by Capco Trust. This major exhibition on show at the Jersey Museum is in partnership with the Natural History Museum and the British Museum.

Dr Matt Pope said, “For the 2016 season we will be using a solar powered electricity generator at the Les Varines dig site. Modern archaeology requires the use of battery powered survey and recording equipment, as well as other electrical devices ranging from laptop computers through to mobile phones.

“The solar generator will give us freedom to keep these devices working smoothly throughout the day without costly runs back to our HQ and without the risk of losing data or survey time, as well as enabling us to base more of our recording and analysis on site. This equipment will make a big impact on our ability to undertake our research.”

Chris Ambler, Chief Executive of Jersey Electricity said, “Jersey Electricity is delighted to support Jersey Heritage and the Société Jersiaise in their acclaimed Ice Age Island Project by funding the acquisition of this solar rig that will enable the expert archaeological team working at the Les Varines dig this summer to undertake much more work in the field by powering all their electronic equipment.

“We are proud to help Dr Pope’s team and Jersey become the first to use renewable energy this way on a high-profile dig. I think it is fantastic that such new, advanced technology will help to shed light on our past.

“Jersey Electricity has invested tens of millions of pounds over the past three decades in decarbonising Jersey’s electricity supply with reliable and affordable energy. Today, around 95% of electricity consumed in Jersey is from low carbon sources in France and a third is from renewables. These are currently hydro and wind but all renewables, including solar, have a part to play in the diversification of energy sources. In such innovative, portable technology as this, it can provide power in remote locations for all sorts of life enhancing projects.”

Harnessing the power of the sun, which is one of Jersey’s great natural resources, to apply modern technology to the Ice Age past is an exciting prospect for the team, and will demonstrate the potential of renewable energy in field research and showcase how the technology could be used to support scientific study anywhere, however remote.

Olga Finch, Curator of Archaeology at Jersey Heritage said, “The Ice Age Island project has been collaborative throughout, with our team of experts from Jersey, France and the UK, support from the TDF and from our corporate sponsors, without whom we would not be able to advance this important research as quickly as we have. Jersey has many Ice Age stories to tell and being able to use new technology in this way to make that possible is very exciting.”

The Les Varines Live Dig and Pop Up Museum will be open to the public on 11th July and will continue to 5th August. Full details are available at the Live Dig section of the Jersey Heritage website www.jerseyheritage.org/ice-age-island . There is a special Open Day on Sunday 31st July from 10am to 3pm. Access to the Live Dig is via a free shuttle bus and guided tours departing from La Hougue Bie at 11 am, 12 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm. .