La Cotte a la Chèvre sits on the tip of a rocky northern peninsula jutting out from Jersey into the rough Atlantic Ocean. Often overshadowed by the larger Middle Palaeolithic site at St. Brelade, it is a small sea cave, which despite an exposed visage and limited resource base, has yielded signatures of Neanderthals. The site has been excavated throughout the twentieth century, with early works undertaken by Edmund Nicolle, Joseph Sinel and Robert Marett. However these repeated forays, along with amateur digs at the cave, led to the removal of many finds without provenance and inconsistencies in recording. Work at the site was continued with Charles McBurney’s seasons in the early 1960s but ground to a halt as his focus was drawn to La Cotte de St. Brelade.
Figure 1. La Chèvre in the modern day (Taken from Prehistoricjersey.net)
These combined circumstances have led to the marginalisation of La Chèvre in the European Neanderthal record; little has been published about the cave and much remains in un-digitised archival records.
Figure 2. Photo of early excavation at the cave highlighting the disturbed levels of the cave (Guiton, 1911).
This was the challenge I faced when I first got to grips with the site records and lithic collection in November last year readying the data for my undergraduate thesis. The aim of this on going work as part of the Ice Age Island project is to collate and record the lithic collections from the site whilst also studying the wider environment to gain an idea of Neanderthal subsistence on the north coast. This investigation into La Chèvre is key; the deposits and artefacts hold clues about the Pleistocene environment of Jersey and will shed light on it’s relationship to the larger site of La Cotte de St. Brelade. The ultimate goal is to reintegrate the site within the wider picture of Middle-Palaeolithic occupation in north-western Europe.
Figure 3. Lithics discovered during the 1912 excavations, stored in Jersey Heritage Archives