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World-famous archaeological site to be protected from the sea

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AN ancient cavern in St Brelade, which has put the Island on the world archaeological map, is to be protected from the sea in a £0.5 million engineering project led by Jersey Heritage.

The organisation received the go-ahead from Planning on Tuesday to build a protective sea wall around La Cotte de St Brelade and to undertake work to stabilise a dangerous cliff face above the site on an exposed headland to the south of Ouaisné.

Jon Carter, Jersey Heritage director, said that the recent storms had allowed seawater to get inside the cavern and its ravine system, threatening archaeological remains dating back 250,000 years.

‘This is a huge step forward in the management of La Cotte,’ he said.

‘It will prevent irreversible damage to the scientific value of the site, and help us to manage its future.

‘It will ensure that our Ice Age Island project will continue to generate great, positive stories, to uncover our hidden history and to promote Jersey and its heritage.’

La Cotte is considered to be one of the most valuable Ice Age sites in Europe. It has highlighted Jersey’s key role in the history of the British Isles and Europe, by revealing Neanderthal life, when La Cotte was a hunter-gatherer’s vantage point in an open plain roamed by hairy mammoth and rhinoceros.

Mr Carter says that once the project is complete archaeologists will be able to thoroughly investigate the site for the first time since it was discovered in the 1880s.

La Cotte is owned by local history society the Société Jersiaise, which is leasing the site to Jersey Heritage for the duration of the project.

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‘It is imperative that greater sums than the Société can afford need to be invested to protect it. Fortunately, our colleagues at Jersey Heritage have now agreed to offer very significant financial support to preserve this unique archaeological site,’ Société president Colin Perchard said.

‘We have agreed to lease La Cotte to Jersey Heritage, who, together with the Department of Infrastructure, will undertake the repair and maintenance of the site for us and the people of Jersey.’

La Cotte is unlikely to ever be open to the public, but a virtual reality tour of the cavern will be released this summer so Islanders will be able to ‘see’ inside. The work was due to start this week.

Paula Thelwell

By Paula Thelwell
author

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