Monday, July 7, 2014
On invite from Dr Matt Pope I join the students on an evening visit to La Cotte St Brelades.
With the tide in our favour we gather at Ouaisne for Matt to explain the health and safety issues and the route into the site.
It's a trek across a barnacle encrusted coastline. Windy but warmed by the warmth of a setting sun. Matt stops every so often to explain the geography and context of what we are looking at. Little has changed. Neanderthal eyes would have gazed upon the same faultlines we can see today.
Millennia of tectonic shifts have forced the rock up into right angles and created a cathedral like space with a vaulted arch. The golden light gives the space an ethereal quality. It's eerily quiet. An ancient land. A sacred site.
Neanderthal tribes crossing the coastal plain found this an ideal spot to herd reindeer and mammoths into its rocky confines. It became a killing zone. A place of survival and sanctuary.
Amazingly there are more finds here, for this period, than the entire area of the UK. All proudly displayed at Hougue Bie.
But the warning note is it's unstable. Pummeled and buffeted by recent poor weather the rock has collapsed and pockets of earth have shifted.
Matt provides escorted trips here as he knows the area well but it is a restricted site and now is being continually recorded by cctv.
Returning Sunday morning to Les Varines finds the dig awash and work underway to mop up the surface water.
The wet clay turns to mud and delicacy is the watchword to avoid unduly disturbing the finds.
Job done and work halted as visitors arrive.