La Cotte de St Brelade

Useful Information

Location: Ouaisne Beach, Ouaisné Bay, Jersey JE3 8AN.
(49.175563, -2.188237)
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: GorgeGorge
Light: n/a
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
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1881 discovery of stone tools.
1910 two Neanderthal teeth found.
1960s and 70s Cambridge archaeologists excavate for a number of years.
2010 The Ice Age Team restarts excavations.
JUL-2022 Prince Charles becomes Patron of Jersey Heritage’s La Cotte de St Brelade Archaeological Project.


La Cotte de St Brelade or simply La Cotte is a crack in the rock of a cliff on the southern coast of Jersey, named after its location at the eastern end of St Brelade's Bay. La Cotte means the cave, but actually it is a gorge in the granite, caused either by erosion or by tectonic movement. It is world-famous for being an extraordinary archaeological site with remains from the paleolithic up to 250,000 years old. The ravine was filled with a 40 m thick deposit of sediments which was deposited over a quarter of a million years. The excavations produced over 200,000 stone tools. And as modern humans came to Europe only 40,000 years ago, the remains are mostly from Neanderthal hunters-gatherers. So this is actually one of the most important Neanderthal sites in the world. It has an unbroken 250,000 year sequence with extraordinary quality and quantity of material.

The rocks of La Cotte were of great importance for the Neanderthals, as they provided an elevated lookout for the hunters, and shelter from cold arctic winds.

The archaeological remains at this rather unlikely place, in the cliffs above the sea, were discovered in 1881. After that there were numerous excavations over the years. The excavations by a group of Cambridge archaeologists in the 1960s and 70s revealed evidence of mammals, a pile of bones and teeth belonging to nine woolly mammoths and a woolly rhinoceros. They excavated for many years and were even joined by Prince Charles. But despite all the excavations, much is still untouched, the enormous amount of sediments requires many years of work. In 2010 a team of archaeologists which calls itself the Ice Age Island team, examined the site and found that the erosion by the sea threatens the remaining content of La Cotte. They started by stabilizing the site and have now restarted excavations in 2022. They will be working at the site for three years, but of course the full excavation of the site would take many decades.

Despite the importance of the site and the spectacular discoveries, the site itself is not really easy to visit. The archaeological remains are protected by law, by the archaeologists, and by the location at the bottom of a crack in the rock, which requires to abseil down. In other words, you are free to go there and walk across the granite peninsula, but it's not possible to enter La Cotte. You can only look down from the rim. Or you can access from the sea, which is only possible during low tide, but the site has been protected by a sea wall now, and its not possible to enter the site. Nevertheless, the massive gorge in the granite is quite spectacular.