La Cotte de St Brelade in Jersey is a beautiful place to visit, but it’s also one of the most important Neanderthal sites in Europe. Recent research has unearthed some secrets about La Cotte de St Brelade which suggests that early man sought shelter in the Channel Island for around 140,000 years.
Archaeologists excavating a La Cotte de St Brelade cave unearthed lots of stone tools and mammoth bones showing signs that the area was a regular destination for early man. It’s believed that Neanderthals made distant migrations by foot, possibly from Northern France over ice and coastal plains to reach the cave around 180,000 and 40,000 years ago. Researchers studying the area could not find any telling reasons as to why the area was so important to Neanderthals.
Frozen glaciers would have covered much of the region during the last ice age, however the cave opening possibly would have been peeking out from the ice. After the ice thawed the area could have been easily accessed by coastal plains which are now submerged under the English Channel. The Neanderthals crossed harsh frozen tundras in the English Channel to reach La Cotte de St Brelade which suggests it was of great importance.
The cave held some significance that may have been more than just a shelter for the Neanderthals. Researchers have mapped some of their movements across the lands showing the cave may have been used as a marker for navigation. Tracing the bones and tools back to their source and origins shows just how far and determined the Neanderthals must have been on making it to Jersey.
Evidence suggests that although the cave was likely used as a shelter, the journey to the cave may have been become ingrained in the Neanderthals early culture. As the European habitats changed over time and other hominids emerged, Neanderthals may have seen Cotte de St Brelade as a haven while they migrated across the lands..
Neanderthals were suspected to be skilled, but also violent and brutish living among the harsh conditions. They first emerged around 280,000 years ago before eventually dying out around 40,000 years ago. They inhabited much of Europe and some parts of Asia, however they couldn’t compete with other more intelligent and sophisticated Homo sapiens.