The Bailiwick of Guernsey includes the islands of Alderney, Sark and Herm as well as the smaller islands of Jethou, Lihou, Brecqhou and Burhou. Although small in total land area, the islands contain a high density of archaeological remains including:
- Spectacular dolmens, standing stones and carved prehistoric figures
- Iron age fortifications, settlements and warrior burials
- Roman shipwrecks and harbour buildings
- Mediaeval churches and castles
- Historic landscapes of granite cottages and small fields bounded by earth banks
- Extensive 18th and 19th century fortifications, gun batteries and coastal defence towers
- Impressive concrete bunkers, towers and emplacements from the German occupation of 1940-45
- At least 800 known wrecks of ships and aircraft
Guernsey faces intense pressure from development. With a small land area, every acre of space is needed and there is a constant demand for new housing. There is a booming economy, which brings the need for large office and shopping centre developments, whilst the States themselves have an ambitious programme of public works.
As a consequence buried archaeology is continually being disturbed and recording of these sites and finds needs to keep pace. In the last few years Section members have been involved in a number of rescue excavations, including those at the Iron Age settlement and cemetery in Kings Road and the sites of the new school buildings in St Peter Port and St Sampson’s.
In addition to addressing the immediate need for archaeological work brought about by the pace of development, the Section is also involved in background research work.
One approach which helps to build an overview of an area’s archaeological potential is ‘field walking’; fields recently ploughed and with freshly disturbed earth are systematically crossed by a group who scan the surface for archaeological finds. These are collected and later washed and sorted. The results are entered onto a map centred database to build information of past human activity across the Island.
Several Section members have researched particular aspects of archaeology and built up a specialist expertise, such as in the study of flint working, glass and clay pipes. This is particularly valuable in a small community; being on an island there are practical issues affecting the ability to get specialist examination of archaeological sites and finds. There is much scope for Section members to develop their own special interests and make a very real contribution to the understanding of the Bailiwick’s archaeology.
Guernsey Museum Archaeology Group
La Société Archaeology Section operates in conjunction with the Guernsey Museum Archaeology Group. Members meet regularly at the museum archaeology store in St Johns Street to wash, sort and examine artefacts recovered from excavations and field walking. There is also opportunity to study artefacts in the museum collections. Regular newsletters keep members up to date on forthcoming meetings and activities.
Lectures and Workshops
Throughout the year there is a programme of events including lectures, practical workshops and visits. For National Archaeology Week last year there were demonstrations and activities run by Section members and aimed at engaging the public in archaeology. There were lectures on the Kings Road Iron Age site and the Sark Hoard and a guided visit to view the recent works to the Town Church roof.
Upcoming Société Events
Membership of the Section is free!
New members are always sought, whether you can wield a trowel, pickaxe, wash potsherds or simply want to come to our visits and seminars. For further details contact the section secretary:
St Peter Port