The Archaeology Section of the Société Jersiaise caters for people who would like to know more about Jersey's past through its archaeological study. We meet weekly and mount additional special events throughout the year. The Section currently has about 25 members, of which many participate in our practical activities. We are always interested in welcoming new members - it is not necessary to have previous experience, as you will be given tuition in all practical activities.
Recently, the Section has put its activities on a new footing, with the appointment of a Field Archaeologist. This new post, funded by an anonymous donation from a benefactor of the Société, is intended to introduce professional skills to the work of the Archaeology Section.
The post is for an initial term of five years and includes directing commercial and research projects, leading Section members in research and post-excavation work, developing a research strategy for the Island’s future archaeological study and carrying out personal research into the archaeology of Jersey. Links with regional archaeological societies in France, England and the other islands form an important part of this.
Robert Waterhouse was the successful applicant and commenced work in August 2010. Mr Waterhouse is a full Member (MIfA) of the Istititute for Archaeologists and graduated from York University in 1993 with a BA (Hons) in Archaeology, having previously studied at Bournemouth University for an HND in Practical Archaeology. He was further honoured in 2011 by election as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He worked in South-West England from 1993, including periods recording buildings with the National Trust in Somerset; scheduling ancient monuments for English Heritage in Devon; working for the conservation departments of two district councils in South Devon and acting as Consultant Archaeologist to the Devon Rural Archive. From 2000 to 2010 he ran his own archaeological consultancy in Devon and carried out eight years of research excavations and surveys at the open air industrial museum of Morwellham Quay in the Tamar Valley which divides Devon and Cornwall. He is married, with a young daughter.
Meetings & Activities
The Section meets every Thursday evening, usually between 8pm and 10pm, though times may vary. Depending on the season, this may take one of the following forms:
These are held in the Section's rooms at La Hougue Bie and usually deal with post-excavation work on sites which we or other archaeologists have excavated. This work may involve finds washing, sorting and marking. The Field Archaeologist leads these sessions, which are an excellent opportunity to learn about the wide variety of artefacts which have been found in the island.
Lectures & Practical Sessions
The Field Archaeologist commenced a series of lectures on Practical Archaeology in November 2010. These lectures are intended to introduce practical archaeological techniques to the Section and may be repeated in future for the benefit of new members. Practical sessions commenced in 2010 and include training in excavation, surveying, fieldwalking and artefact analysis. Occasional lectures by other visiting archaeologists are also arranged from time to time.
Summer evenings are ideal for this (dependant on the weather of course) and a often take the form of visits to one of the island's many prehistoric dolmens or other archaeological sites. They may be led by the Field Archaeologist, the Section Chairman or another suitably qualified person.
Main Activities of the Section
The Section has been involved in several archaeological excavations since 2010. The first, at Le Hocq in St Clement Parish, involved members in the rescue excavation and recording of two probably post-medieval (c.1550-1800 AD) barrel wells which had been exposed by shifting sands on the beach alongside Le Hocq Martello Tower. A separate web page [link] details this work, which took place in October 2010.
The second excavation took place over a four week period in December 2010 and January 2011 [photo]. It took place in the front garden of 16 New Street, St Helier: a Georgian house belonging to the National Trust for Jersey, who are in the process of restoring it. A separate webpage details this excavation and some of the finds made there. Section members assisted the Field Archaeologist in carrying out the post-excavation work of washing, sorting and identifying the large quantity of finds from the excavation. Specialist reports are currently being carried out on these.
The Section carries out field surveys from time to time. This year, we intend to survey possible prehistoric standing stones at La Moye Golf Course, St Brelade, in advance of archaeological excavations around them.
Future surveys may look at sites such as Groznez Castle and Greenwood's Mound at Les Landes, St Ouen.
Standing Buildings Survey
The Field Archaeologist, assisted by members of the Section, carried out rescue recording of a farmhouse in the Parish of St Ouen during the winter of 2010-2011. [photo] The house has been shown to be a multi-period structure, with fabric dating from the 15th to 19th centuries. A report on this work will be written up in the Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise. In 2011, we carried out detailed surveys of an 18th century fisherman's cottage at La Collette Gardens, Havre des Pas, as part of an archaeological survey and excavation project for the Parish of St Helier.
Post-excavation research often includes the need to study particular types of artefact, such as tobacco pipes, glassware, metalwork and coins.
Some members of the Section are experts in the study of ceramics, which usually take the form of broken fragments of pottery, sometimes attractively glazed [photo]. Apart from the Neolithic to early Bronze Age periods, and the products of art potteries from the 20th century, pottery was never made in Jersey, due to the lack of suitable clays. This meant that it had to be imported from many places in France, England and elsewhere.
The Section has therefore become expert in identifying the extraordinary variety of ceramics imported into the island. We need more people to learn about this subject, to enable this area of expertise to continue into the future!
Research & Learning Resources
Excavation and other activities are only part of the Section's work. Members are encouraged in their own research, guidance and assistance is on hand as are the resources of the Section's specialist libraries, at La Hougue Bie and in the Archaeology office at the Société's offices at 7 Pier Road, St. Helier.
One of our Section members, Mr Jeremy Percival, has for some years been researching and cataloguing Jersey's remarkable collection of Neolithic and Bronze Age ritual sites. These include chambered tombs, (known as dolmens) standing stones (menhirs) and other stone structures. He presents this research in the form of an excellent website: www.prehistoricjersey.net
The Field Archaeologist has commenced a small research project of his own, to carry out a detailed record of the surviving Parish Guns in the Channel Islands. These, which fall into the general category of 'cannon', are made of cast bronze and most date to the middle years of the 16th century. They have not been studied in detail before and close scrutiny is revealing details of their casting, finishing and subsequent use.
This project is taking place in conjunction with the Société Guernesiaise and the Société Sercquaise and further details can be viewed here.
Landscape Archaeology Survey
The Section, led by the Field Archaeologist, will be carrying out research into Jersey's landscape archaeology over the next few years. Detailed study of maps, placenames and known archaeological sites will be combined to suggest past settlement patterns, dates and extent of field systems, and other features. This will hopefully result in a book, illustrated by a sequence of maps reconstructing settlement and land use patterns over time. This work continues Mr Waterhouse's long-term research interest in the subject, which began in Devon, where he completed several such studies.
Interspersed between work meetings are talks and lectures by local archaeologists and, when possible, by visiting colleagues. In the summer months evening outings are organised to topical or theme sites.
The Section is also involved with Dolmen Day, organised by Jersey Heritage, which is in September every year, advertised widely, including on the Jersey Heritage website.
On these days, pre-booked participants are conveyed by coach to a series of dolmen and standing stone sites around the island, where Archaeology Section members and Jersey Heritage staff give a brief introduction to each site and its archaeology. These tours are an excellent way of educating locals and visitors alike and showing off various guardianship sites around the island, many of which are owned or leased by the Société Jersiaise [link to guardianship sites webpage].
Each summer we also participate in the Council for British Archaeology's Festival of British Archaeology, which usually includes guided walks and a research excavation in which Section members and others from the Societe Jersiaise are encouraged to participate, to have fun and gain archaeological experience.