Friday, July 4, 2014

Les Varines Dig.

Sited high on a bluff, overlooking Les Varines valley, is an archeological digDr Matt Pope and his team have returned to discover what has lain hidden beneath the soil for the last 17,000 years.

So far over 3,500 finds have been unearthed. Greater than the sum total of all the same age finds in the south east of the UK.

In the "Age of the Reindeer" Magdalenian tribes of hunter/gatherers moved across the landscape. One that differs little from today. Hunting to survive. Constantly on the lookout for the ideal place to make camp.

In Les Varines they found it. A kind of cwm below a hilltop. Sheltered, looking down a valley to the cold waters of the sea. 

Here they napped flints, gathered from afar, and made tools. A depression between two granite outcrops. When they left, the evidence of their existence remained here for 17,000 years until today.

This site is one of the richest deposits of Magdalenian flints in the UK and maybe the world. Ancient soils are giving up their secrets and letting us peer into our past.

As the students patiently dig and brush away the earth a hushed expectancy hangs over the site. Quietly, reverently, finds are discovered, recorded and then plucked from their resting places. It feels sacramental to see small flint blades proffered on moist palms. 

I thumbed the edge of one small blade that Matt offered. It's edge was still sharp.

Whatever has happened above has hardly affected what remains below. Evidence is provided by the quality of colour and in one case I was shown what looked like mica surrounding a napped flint. I asked Matt to explain what this meant. He said it was rare to get these tiny shards surrounding a piece as time and a constantly shifting, buckling landscape tends to disturb their original resting place. But not here. The unique feature of this site means it has acted like a bucket of clay holding everything in place. Until now.

It's open to the public. Anyone who can walk or cycle there is welcome. Matt and his team love visitors.

You can even catch a shuttle bus from Hougue Bie directly to the site.

Don't miss this great opportunity to visit and witness the past rediscovered.

Matt Pope looks at a freshly excavated small flint knife.

The geophysical survey explains how the finds have survived.

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