Jersey's place in Neanderthal history revealed in study
- 20 October 2013
- From the section Jersey
A study on a Jersey site that revealed a significant piece of late Neanderthal history has been published.
Scientists working on an archaeological dig in St Brelade said teeth found at La Cotte suggest Jersey was one of the last places Neanderthals lived.
The team of British archaeologists have unearthed items which show the presence of Stone Age hunters at the headland.
They said the finds were helping scientists understand more about the early relatives of modern humans.
A large portion of the site contains sediments dating to the last Ice Age, preserving 250,000 years of climate change and archaeological evidence.
The site, which has produced more Neanderthal stone tools than the rest of the British Isles put together, contains the only known late Neanderthal remains from North West Europe.
Dr Matt Pope of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London, who helped lead the research, said: "In terms of the volume of sediment, archaeological richness and depth of time, there is nothing else like it known in the British Isles.
"Given that we thought these deposits had been removed entirely by previous researchers, finding that so much still remains is as exciting as discovering a new site."
The team dated sediments at the site using a technique called optically stimulated luminesce, which measures the last time sand grains were exposed to sunlight.
Dr Pope said the results showed that part of the sequence of sediments dates between 100,000 and 47,000 years old, indicating that Neanderthal teeth which were discovered at the site in 1910 were younger than previously thought, and "probably belonged to one of the last Neanderthals to live in the region".
Professor Clive Gamble, from the University of Southampton and archaeology member of the Natural Environment Research Council, said: "Archaeologists need dates like an artist needs paint. Without a sound chronology the power of our other techniques for probing the past are severely restricted.
"This is a great step forward on what looks like being a fascinating journey."
The wider project, supported also by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Jersey Government, will continue to investigate the site and material excavated from it over the past 110 years.