A new fundraising campaign is raising money to enable archaeologists to return to one of the most important and iconic Ice Age sites in Europe - La Cotte de St Brelade at Ouaisné.
The campaign has been jointly launched by the Société Jersiaise, which owns La Cotte, and Jersey Heritage, which is responsible for the site’s conservation. Any funds raised will be used to protect La Cotte for the future and to make it safe for archaeologists to continue their work at the ancient site.
A new website dedicated to the La Cotte Project has been created so that people can easily donate online. The address is www.lacotte.org.je. The website includes information about ongoing work at the site, as well the history of La Cotte, which was home to Neanderthals living in Jersey thousands of years ago.
Alastair Best, President of the Société Jersiaise, said: “La Cotte is one of the most important Ice Age sites in Europe. Its archaeological importance was first discovered in the 1880s and it has been the subject of research ever since. It has always attracted scholars and students from outside the Island but access to the site is only possible by the fearless and the athletic, and the sea side of the site has suffered from the endless barrage and erosion from the sea.”
Construction work, funded by Jersey Heritage and the Société, is already well underway to make the cliffs safe at La Cotte and to protect the site from the sea. However, there is plenty more that needs to be done, now and in the future.
Jon Carter, Jersey Heritage’s Chief Executive, said: “La Cotte is a story waiting to be told and it’s exciting to think that the next chapter of this project lies just around the corner. We have already funded the first phase of work to protect La Cotte for the future by making safe the cliffs and protecting the site from the sea. However, this work is ongoing and conservation of this important site is a long-term project.”
Once La Cotte is deemed safe, archaeologists will be able to return to La Cotte to restart their work, which they are aiming to do this summer. Dr Matt Pope, from the UCL Institute of Archaeology, said: “There has been a long history of discovery at La Cotte de St Brelade, but each generation has had to deal with considerable risks from the sea and falling rocks to learn more about the Neanderthal people who lived here. The investment so far is transforming the headland into a stable and manageable, research-ready dig site. We’re very excited and honoured to be at the beginning of the next chapter of research at this iconic prehistoric site.”
The creation of the sea wall is a significant engineering project and Dr Pope explained that it was vital due to rising sea levels and an increase in the likelihood of storms as features of climate change in the coming century. “The La Cotte Project is protecting this internationally important site for understanding human evolution. It will give us, and hopefully future generations of archaeologists, time to fully explore this massive and significant Neanderthal site,” he said.
No fundraising target has been set for the La Cotte Project but it has already been boosted by a donation from the Association of Jersey Charities and Channel Islands Lottery and another from an anonymous benefactor.
Mr Carter said: “The new website makes it easy for people to find out information about La Cotte and it’s a quick and easy way to donate online. We really need everyone’s support for this project and hope that Islanders feel able to help us protect this important site.”