Examples of earliest art in the British Isles found in Jersey

Plaquette.
The ancient markings made on ten fragments of stones, known as plaquettes, were uncovered at Les Varines between 2014 and 2018. Credit: The Natural History Museum

Archaeologists have confirmed flat stones engraved with fine lines discovered in Jersey show examples of some of the earliest art on the British Isles.

The ancient markings made on ten fragments of stones, known as plaquettes, were uncovered at Les Varines between 2014 and 2018. Since then a team of archaeologists from Newcastle University, the Natural History Museum and the University of York have been analysing them.

The ancient markings made on ten fragments of stones, known as plaquettes, were uncovered at Les Varines between 2014 and 2018. Credit: Ice Age Island

The stones are thought to date from the late Ice Age, some 15,000 years ago. Experts believe they were used in a domestic context and are thought to predate cave art and engraved bone found at Creswell Crags in Derbyshire. The plaquettes are believed to have been made by the Magdalenians, an early hunter gatherer culture dating between 23,000 and 14,000 years ago. The Magdalenian era saw a flourishing of early art including cave art, the decoration of tools and weapons and the engraving of stones and bones.

Examples of etched Magdalenian plaquettes have previously been discovered at sites in France, Spain and Portugal. However, no similar examples of artistic expression have been found in the British Isles of such an early date.

The research took place as part of the Ice Age Island project. Jersey Heritage hopes that the stones will be returned to the island before the end of the year, when they will then go on display.