03 April 2018
Dr. Matt Pope:
In and out of Northern Europe -
Hunting the Neanderthals of the English Channel
The English Channel is a largely unexplored submerged landscape which lies between the southern coast of England and Northern France. Like the more famous Doggerland, it is a landscape which was dry land to some degree over much of the last million years. Transforming through a dramatic flood water breach 480,000 years ago from an embayment in the Altantic to a large river system including the Rhine, Thames and Seine it would have provided a varied landscape of ridge, hills and deep valleys useful to early human hunters.
Since 2009 Matt Pope's team have been exploring the potential of this landscape through archive research and a detailed study of the Channel Island of Jersey, and in this lecture he presents the results of this work by focusing on la Cotte de St Brelade, a large Neanderthal occupation site with a sequence spanning 200,000 years of Neanderthal occupation. The results of this work and survey of the sea bed around the island suggest that parts of the English Channel have excellent preservation of the submerged landscape of the Ice Age, rivalling that of Doggerland. This landscape, which we call La Manche, offers a chance to examine in fine detail the degree to which the La Manche river represented a frontier, barrier of corridor to Neanderthal movement into northern Europe. Along with the record for Neanderthals from Wales, Britanny, West France, Spain and Portugal he considers how Neanderthals responded to being close to or separated from the Atlantic Ocean.
Dr Matt Pope is Principal Research Associate in Palaeolithic Archaeology at the UCL Institute of Archaeology and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He has led field research in Southern Britain and the Channel Islands during the past 15 years. His research focuses on how early humans used and responded to their landscape in terms of tool use and hunting strategies and how these populations responded and adapted to climate change in Northern Europe over the past million years.