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Stone age

Dehus Dolmen Carving

We tend to divide 'the stone age' into 3 main periods and they are...

1.  Old stone age (Palaeolithic) - 3.3 million years ago up until about 9500 BC

2.  Middle stone age (Mesolithic) - 9500 BC to about 5000 BC

3.  New stone age (Neolithic) - 5000 BC to about 2000 BC

What was happening in Guernsey during those times?

1.  Old stone age.  In those days, Guernsey was not an island.  It was still connected to mainland Europe and you can read more about this period here

2.  Middle stone age.  At the beginning of this age, the world began to warm up.  Animals of the Ice Age (like the mammoth) became extinct and were replaced by species which are more familiar today. For a few thousand years it was warmer than in modern times and Guernsey was surrounded by forest. As the ice melted, the seas rose and made Guernsey an island around 9000 BC. Herm/Jethou became separated from Guernsey before 6000 BC and Herm was later cut off from Jethou. Guernsey eventually became split in two, with the northern part forming a small separate island known as the Clos du Valle.  These two parts of Guernsey were united in 1806. 

3.  New stone age.  The Neolithic is literally 'the new stone age', when people began to make polished stone tools, rather than using only flint. Fine flint arrowheads were still imported, however, brought here from France, showing there was 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. 

What is a dolmen?

Our Neolithic ancestors left behind striking monuments of earth and stone, known locally as dolmens.  (We generally call them 'dolmens' but they are more correctly called 'passage graves').   The earliest dolmen in Guernsey is the burial mound of Les Fouaillages, at the edge of L'Ancresse Common. 

Why did people build dolmens?

We don't know for sure.  These monuments were clearly very important to the people that built them. Most of the tombs have their entrance pointing towards the sunrise. Herm has so many tombs in the north of the island that archaeologists have called it an 'Island of the Dead'.  Please find below some information sheets below about three different dolmens to visit (under 'document downloads'). 

At St Martin's Church is a standing stone carved into the shape of a female figure, known as La Gran'mère du Chimquière (Grandmother of the cemetery) and there is a second outside the Castel Church. Although these date possibly from 2500 BC or even earlier, people still leave offerings of coins or flowers to bring luck - especially if there is a wedding. It is possible that they are the oldest pieces of sculpture in the British Isles.

Places to visit

* L'Ancresse common is highly recommended, as you can visit La Varde and Les Fouaillages at the same time.  There is also a smaller dolmen near Les Fouaillages called La Platte Mare.

* Le Déhus Dolmen.

* The statue menhirs outside St Martins or Castel churches.

What comes next?  The Bronze Age

  • Stone Tools
  • Castel Menhir
  • Le Dehus Interior