Jersey’s Ice Age Island project has been nominated for a prestigious industry award, and it will need the support of Islanders to win. The project has been nominated in the ‘Research Project of the Year’ category in the Archaeology Awards 2018, organised by Current Archaeology.
The Ice Age Island project began in 2009 as a survey of the island’s prehistory alongside a field school for archaeology students from the UK. Led by experts from the British Museum, the UCL Institute of archaeology and the Universities of Manchester, Southampton, Trinity St David’s, York, Birkbeck and St Andrews working alongside Jersey Heritage. The work of the archaeologists has involved multiple interwoven research strands exploring the later Palaeolithic to the Neolithic periods.
Each year the summer excavations have focused on an area at Les Varines, in St Saviour, where evidence of Ice Age activity was first spotted, by chance, by the husband of Olga Finch, Curator of Archaeology at Jersey Heritage.
Since the first few flint fragments were discovered, thousands of items have been unearthed during the ensuing eight-year period, including what is thought to be the earliest art in the British Isles – elaborately incised fragments of schist, a material not local to the Island.
Throughout the project team has engaged with the public, opening the dig to daily tours and creating an on-site pop up museum to highlight the significance of the hunter-gatherer camp they have discovered, and the story it can tell of a time when Jersey was physically and culturally connected to mainland Europe.
Jersey Heritage, with the support of sponsors, the States of Jersey and the Tourism Development Fund, has invested in the Ice Age Island project in order to understand and protect this precious archaeological resource that has captured international attention.
Olga Finch of Jersey Heritage said, “What we have uncovered through this research is a remarkable record of activity from some of Europe’s last-known Neanderthal hunters to the arrival of the first early modern humans, as well as echoes of an Ice Age landscape shaped by a quarter of a million years of climate change. Much of what we have recovered so far is rarely found in northern France or Britain. Jersey has emerged as a rich repository of Ice Age data that is re-imagining life on this rocky outcrop, and continental Europe, from at least 250,000 years ago.”
Dr Matt Pope of UCL added, “In terms of the bigger narrative, this nomination shows how Jersey’s prehistory, from La Cotte de St Brelade, to fabulous monuments like La Hougue Bie, continues to capture the imagination of the public far beyond the Island.
Our project has grown into a large collaborative team over the years, bringing together experts from UK and France because of the overwhelming significance of these sites, and Jersey as a whole, in understanding European Prehistory. In its summary of the quality of nominations this year, Current Archaeology says this has been ‘another exceptional year for archaeological research’, so the competition is clearly tough and as the winner is decided by a public vote, we need as many people as possible to get behind us.”
Current Archaeology is the leading journal in its field and the annual awards are held in great esteem. You can read the full nomination for Jersey’s Ice Age Island project, and find details about how to vote, here:
Voting closes on 5 February 2018, and the winners of the 2018 Current Archaeology Awards will be announced on 23 February as part of Current Archaeology Live! 2018. Excavations will resume at Les Varines this summer.