La Cotte de St Brelade: Saalian Sequence

Early Middle Palaeolithic Neanderthal Archaeology

La Cotte de St Brelade is a spectacular collapsed cave and ravine system on the south west corner of the island of Jersey. Excavations by Pere Burdo and Frederick Zeuner in the 1930s determine that a sequence of deposits older than those found within the rest of the system lay in the North Ravine.  Through the 1960’s and 1970’s Professor Charles McBurney investigated part of this sequence and recovered in the region of 100,000 Middle Palaeolithic stone artefacts associated with in excess of 12 separate sediment horizons.  These deposits also contained abundant faunal remains, including burnt bone and two distinctive bone heaps: piles of mammoth and woolly rhinoceros bones preserved at two levels in the site.

LaMP researchers recommenced the investigation of these deposits in 2010: working both on the substantial archive from the the McBurney excavations and surveying the current condition of sediments in the North Ravine.

In 2013 a new AHRC project, Crossing the Threshold, led by Professor Clive Gamble from Southampton University began a new detailed analysis and reinterpretation of the McBurney archive. This project is looking directly at the evidence for occupation at La Cotte and will situate the archaeology from the North Ravine in its European and world context by comparing it with similar age sites. The project explores the idea that super-sites like La Cotte are the first evidence for novel niche construction by these early ancestors; a niche that can be described as the first ‘hominin home’ in a Middle Pleistocene landscape.

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