Archaeology Report for 2003
This was a year which showed the best of the Bailiwick’s archaeology, yet also how difficult the task of preserving the past can be.
In April Professor Tim Champion gave the Societe an informative lecture on the whole concept of “monuments”. He described how the English idea of a monument began as a romantic ruin left to peacefully decay, to be preserved only by record. In more modern times we see the need for preservation, but should recognise that many of our “monuments” were not intended to last forever and it may not be possible, even desirable, to save them all.
This conclusion was in a way ironic, as a planned Section visit in January to see the Old Prison was aborted when the site was bulldozed somewhat earlier than we had been led to believe. The Section voiced concerns over the lack of consultation or planning which precedes many States developments – emergency rescue work was needed to recover remains disturbed by the new airport road. The result was also disappointing – wide and straight with concrete kerbs - “nice if this was Bracknell” one member commented. The marina development at St Sampsons was also undertaken in the absence of any impact assessment or archaeological assessment done before the project started. We will never know whether the ancient timbers rumoured to have been found in a skip relate to a historic ship or shoreline structure. Following from this, we learned that no provision had been made for archaeological work preceding the extensive school building programme- a situation which shows Guernsey’s approach to the problem of heritage protection is three decades behind the UK (and even further behind France). The Section made a contribution to the Rural Area Plan debate, stressing the need for a proper mechanism to permit archaeological work to take place, including a method whereby the work can be paid for. This last point was not accepted.
In the Autumn, Nial Marer from Jersey Museum delivered a splendid practical talk on the basic principles of conservation of artefacts, which he described as a “constant battle against entropy”. It showed what a difficult and expensive job even small objects can present. There was also the message of if in doubt – leave it where it is!
The Archaeology of Sark
In August we visited Sark, and with the kind hospitality of landowners there were able to visit almost all the known archaeological sites on the island.
Copyright © La Société Guernesiaise 2008. All rights
Candie Gardens, St Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 1UG, Channel Islands.