A virtual reality ‘tour’ has been devised to show what La Cotte de St Brelade might have been like 250,000 years ago.
ISLANDERS will be soon able to explore the Ice Age past of Jersey’s earliest human inhabitants who settled in caves on the south coast thanks to the latest virtual reality technology.
Access to La Cotte de St Brelade, one of Europe’s most important archaeological sites, is restricted to protect the ancient artefacts located there and because of its hazardous location at the foot of cliffs near Ouaisné Bay.
But to give Islanders a taste of prehistoric life in the cave, a virtual reality ‘tour’ has been devised which recreates its environment 250,000 years ago – a time when Jersey was still connected to continental Europe.
Excavations at La Cotte, which started in 1910 after Neanderthal teeth were discovered there, have uncovered more than 250,000 artefacts, and Neanderthals are believed to have lived at the site from around 250,000 to 48,000 years ago, making them the Island’s earliest human inhabitants.
La Cotte is the only site in the British Isles where late-Neanderthal fossils have been found and it is believed to be one of the last sites in north-west Europe where these close relatives of humans, who became extinct 40,000 years ago, lived.
The virtual reality ‘tour’ uses data gathered from previous excavations at La Cotte, as well as state-of-the-art 3D laser mapping and photographic material to create the virtual environment, which can be viewed through a high-tech headset.
Two headsets are due to be installed as part of a revamped La Cotte exhibition at the Jersey Museum in May.
The project is supported by Digital Jersey and sponsored by Virtual Reality Jersey as well as engineering firm Geomarine, which is providing advice on stabilising the cliff faces at La Cotte.
Chris Shield, project and programme manager at Jersey Heritage, said the project was a ‘ground-breaking move’.
‘This project will showcase one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in Europe to a global audience without putting it at risk [of damage from visitors],’ he said.
Tim McGuinness, of Virtual Reality Jersey, said that the project was an ‘excellent example’ of how Jersey’s digital sector could support heritage projects.
‘We are really excited to showcase what we have created and hope to inspire other projects like this one across this Island,’ he said.
Geomarine managing director Phil Horsley said: ‘It is fascinating to be working alongside digital engineers to make the site more accessible to the general public than it has ever been.’
A private launch event for the La Cotte VR project took place at the Digital Jersey hub on 5 March.