History

Jersey Was a Trendy Destination for Neanderthals

Neanderthals routinely visited a coastal cave site in northern France over the course of roughly 140,000 years.

Did Neanderthals go on holidays? If so, their favorite place was certainly Jersey, according to investigation of a Middle Pleistocene cave site.

A tax haven and a popular travel destination, Jersey is the most southerly island of the British Isles, lying just 14 miles off the coast of northern France.

The place, blessed with pristine beaches and lush greenery, was trendy also among the Neanderthals, who kept coming back for 200,000 years.

Indeed, stone tools and mammoth bones unearthed in the 1970s at La Cotte de St Brelade, a cave on the south of the island, revealed the site was repeatedly visited by Neanderthals from at least 240,000 years ago.

"La Cotte seems to have been a special place for Neanderthals. They kept making deliberate journeys to reach the site over many, many generations," said Andy Shaw, of the Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins (CAHO) at the University of Southampton, in a statement.

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Shaw and colleagues from the British Museum, University College London, University of Manchester and the University of Wales studied stone tools and bone fragments found in layers of sediment dating back to more than 240,000 years ago until after 40,000 years ago - when Neanderthals went extinct.

They matched the composition of the stones used to make tools to the geology of the sea bed, and studied how they were made, carried and modified.

The study helped build a picture of what resources were available to Neanderthals over tens of thousands of years, and where they were traveling from.

Detailing their findings In the journal Antiquity, the researchers explained that the cave wasn't a permanent settlement, but it was used for brief stays.

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Nevertheless, the site emerged as a persistent place in the memory and landscape of the Neanderthals who keep coming back there throughout temperate, cooling and cool conditions.

"Despite the profound changes in regional setting and local affordances, people continued to visit La Cotte, bringing tools with them," they wrote.

During glacial phases (Ice Ages), they travelled to the site by foot over cold, open landscapes, now submerged under the sea.

As the climate warmed, the Neanderthals accessed the site by coastal plains connected to France.

"What drew them to Jersey so often is harder to tease out," Beccy Scott of the British Museum, said in a statement.

"It might have been that the whole Island was highly visible from a long way off - like a waymarker - or people might have remembered that shelter could be found there, and passed that knowledge on," Scott said.

Photo: La Cotte de St Brelade and the bay. Credit:Man vyi/Wikimedia Commons WATCH: Neanderthals Were Smarter Than We Thought