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Guernsey's first people

Have you ever wondered why Guernsey has no toads, moles, squirrels, badgers, foxes or snakes?  There is a reason for it.  Guernsey became an island before Europe had fully warmed up after the Ice Age, so many types of animals (and plants) never made it this far before the seas cut off Guernsey from Europe. Rabbits were only introduced here by man during the Tudor times.

Guernsey's earliest inhabitants may have lived on land long drowned by the sea. Just off Jethou is a site which is underwater most of the year. Flint tools have been found here including blades made about 12,000 years ago from a period known as the Upper Palaeolithic.

At that date, the sea was about 125 metres lower than it is today and Guernsey was still attached to France.  A great river ran where the English Channel now stands.

Archaeologists have investigated many of our ancient sites, sometimes by careful digging, often by just drawing or photography and making detailed records of what is found. The earliest local site wholly on land that has been dug by archaeologists is on Lihou Island. Modern humans lived there around 7,500 BC amid a forested landscape, making flint tools and eating a variety of foods including hazelnuts.  Experts also believe they would have fished with harpoons, hunted smaller animals and gathered other wild foods such as berries. Although we have no evidence for boat-building, these people must have learned to build boats as the sea rose and cut off Lihou from Guernsey.

The Neolithic is literally 'the new stone age', when people made flint tools that could be small and sophisticated. We know that fine flint arrowheads were brought here from central France, showing there was a trade taking place across the sea. Sark was a favourite place for making polished stone axes, which are found in Guernsey and further afield. Craftsmen would have made many tools and weapons from wood, antler and bone but few of these survive. Guernsey and Herm would still have been about twice the size they are today when Neolithic cultures took hold in the islands between 5,500 and 5,000 BC.

Places to visit:

* At certain times, peat deposits can be seen at Vazon Bay at low tide.  This peat represents woodland drowned by the rising sea after 5000 BC.

 

Please get in touch with our Access & Learning Manager for more information:

01481 747264

museums@gov.gg