28th June 2013: Stone Age Living History on the Ice Age Island

Week 1 – Castle Green, Gorey

My first week on Jersey was spent on the Castle Green in the shadow of Gory Castle (Mont Orgueil Castle). Accompanying throughout my stay was a pop-up museum created by a local school and Jersey Heritage to display information about the Ice Age Island Project and show some of the artefacts found on the castle green during a variety of excavations, including a Time Team excavation which set out to find the rubbish heap from the castle.

The Ice Age Island Project is being run by Jersey Heritage in partnership with Société Jersiaise and the National Trust for Jersey. It is part of a  three year archaeological project (funded by the Tourism Development Fund), to explore Jersey’s landscape stretching back over a quarter of a million years. On the northern side of the headland the ice age island digging team, lead by Dr Matt Pope had opened a couple of small trenches to try and better understand the geology of the loess (wind blown sediment) basin. It was hoped that evidence of Neanderthals would be locked within these layers. 

Meanwhile I set up ‘camp’ and gave flintknapping and living history displays while locals and holiday makers came to view the site. There was media interest in the form of BBC Radio Jersey's Sarah Palmer, ITV local news' Katie Robinson and local paper who all reported on the project; this was very exciting as it gave a boost to public interest for the rest of the month there.

I also entertained several school groups that came to visit the site and I gave a talk on Ice Age life and a flintknapping demonstration which many of the students had never seen before. As there were no other members of the public around at this time I was able to show how people in the past would have used an atlatl to hunt (aiming for a small granite slab rather than actual game).

Week 2 – La Hougue Bie Museum

For my second week I was based at La Hougue Bie Museum which is situated around a 6,000 year old Neolithic chambered tomb, with a small medieval chapel built on top and a command bunker from World War II dug into the side of it - talk about multi-period!

As on Castle Green, I gave flintknapping demonstrations along with other Stone Age crafts. One activity that many people seemed interested in and were taking lots of photos of was repairing spears. I also made a full atlatl dart using a fire straightened hazel rod which had turkey feathers tied to one end for drag, like a medieval arrow. On the other end I attached a retouched blade which had been flaked in the Creswellian style. This I found particularly satisfying as it encompassed several materials and was pursued from the absolute start to the finished product.

While at the museum I was able to look around the displays and go inside the Neolithic tomb which is a truly awesome structure and would have taken many weeks to build. Thankfully it also offered refuge from the scorching midday sun.

Week 3 – Petit Portelet

In my third week I was based at Petit Portelet which overlooked the sea. Unfortunately the ground was too hard to safely put up the deerskin hut. However there were still many visitors to the pop-up museum and lots of people came to see flintknapping which was encouraging.

Before and after the day started I was able to enjoy a walk down to the beach to look for good hammerstones and raw materials for making polished axes in the form of the local diorite which occurred in a dyke through the pink granite. At times the weather was almost too hot to be sitting outside knapping!

Week 4 – La Hougue Bie Museum

For the final week I returned to La Hougue Bie Museum with a similar setup to the first week I was there. This time around I did some butchery and hide tanning as well as bone and flint work. I was lucky enough to be allowed into the museum stores to look at some of the artefacts the public do not get to see which was a privilege.

Overall I had a great time on Jersey and thoroughly enjoyed knapping at the different locations and meeting lots of new people. I hope to return there next year for another month of stone age living history hopefully with a few new and different objects and activities'

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