Archaeology Report for 2005

An Exciting Year for Guernsey Archaeology!
Guernsey’s archaeological research saw a particularly exciting year, with important Iron Age excavations being undertaken by the Guernsey Museums Archaeology Group. A summary report of excavations undertaken is published in the “Transactions” for 2005 and work on these sites absorbed most of the efforts of section members during 2005.

The Archaeology and Early History of the Channel Islands
The year also saw the publication of Heather Sebire’s book The Archaeology and Early History of the Channel Islands, Tempus, ISBN 0-7524-3449-7. As Archaeology Officer for Guernsey Museum & Art Gallery, Heather has produced the first major round-up of archaeological work since the two volumes by Kendrick and Hawkes in 1928 and 1937. Extensive changes were made to our knowledge of the Channel Islands archaeology during the second half of the twentieth century. The Antiquarian observations of Lukis and his successors has been supplanted by modern professional excavation and recording techniques and considerable interest in the islands by leading academics. This includes a huge expansion of our information about the islands during the Roman era and growing understanding of how the islands form part of wider European patterns of settlement, development and trade. Necessarily brief introductions are made into each of the key sites, but it is an authoritative read for both expert and lay reader alike: for those wishing to investigate the subject more, this book’s 9-page bibliography should prove an invaluable starting point.

Rural Area Plan
On the political front, we saw slight beneficial changes made to the Rural Area Plan, expanding the wording beyond know sites to include “developments that would be likely to adversely affect areas of archaeological importance”. Constructive comments were made by the Inspector who felt that the plan already addressed the need for early action and that it was implicit that developers would normally meet all archaeological costs. It remains to be seen how this interpretation will be applied in practice.

The Archaeology of Herm
We enjoyed a day trip to Herm during the summer and attempted to relocate and revisit the prehistoric monuments identified by Lukis and those published by Kendrick in 1928. Undeterred by bramble and bracken this was largely achieved, although we had to take a hard look at quarry scars and upcast granite boulders which could easily be misinterpreted as cists and megaliths.

We were armed with photocopies of the relevant extracts from Kendrick’s “Archaeology of the Channel Islands, vol 1” and a tourist map of the island. It was surprisingly difficult to locate some of the sites and to match the descriptions given by Lukis or Kendrick to the stones we saw on the ground. Illustrated below are just some of the 19+ known Neolithic sites on Herm (c.3,000 to 1,800 BC).

View from the hill called “le Monceau” northwards towards Guernsey in the distance. The view shows ancient sites in virtual alignment.

In the foreground are stones from the structure possibly called #9 by Kendrick. In the valley bottom, by the tourists can be seen the “Roberts Cross” burial chamber (Kendrick #12).

Stones peeking from the bracken higher up the hill are from a series of broken burial chambers and cists. Several are around the bare patch half way up the hill.

The stony-topped hill is “le Petit Monceau”.
A closer view of the burial chamber in the plain between Grand Monceau and Petit Monceau at “Roberts Cross”. The chamber is approximately 5m long by 2m wide. The view is looking north, on a similar orientation to the photo above.

One capstone is missing from the chamber, allowing crawling access to the interior (Kendrick #12).

An example of one of the small cists on le Petit Monceau, to be found by forcing a way through bracken and brambles in the summer. This one is on the western side, being Kendrick’s #3. It is roughly 3m in diameter.

Several references by Lukis and Kendrick are difficult to identify now, whilst other possible cists in this area do not seem to be mentioned.
One of several burial chambers and cists to be found on Le Grand Monceau. This appears to be Kendrick’s burial chamber #6. It is wedge-shaped, being approximately 6m long by 4m wide at the maximum, although is much disturbed. This photo is looking west. The fallen capstone is at the “wide” western end of the tomb.
This is the best surviving of the small cists on the “sandy plain” at the north end of Herm (Kendrick #15). The structure in the photo is some 2m wide. The photo is taken looking north.

Another tomb is reported north of this one. However, a large structure with the appearance of a passage grave is in fact a quarry. Discarded granite stones from quarrying also look disturbingly like prehistoric structures!

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Candie Gardens, St Peter Port, Guernsey GY1 1UG, Channel Islands.