When the water laps up on the granite rocks and sandy embankments off the coast of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, ancient artifacts get wet. It isnâ€™t a disaster. Itâ€™s been happening for thousands of years, in fact, in a daily rhythmâ€”the water rushing in rivulets that turn into torrents along the beachy landscape, sweeping across the miles of exposed seabed and rising above it.
This May, alongside the gulls and crustaceans that skitter about, archaeologists will scamper away from the rising sea as their fieldwork is submerged. Theyâ€™ll retreat.
With its pockmarked and inundated topography, the intertidal reef known as the Violet Bank is awash with history. Yet despite its name, the bank is a changing gradient of blues, grays, greens, and brownsâ€”a cryptic mix of rocky earth and transient sea. Now a preferred spot for low-water fishingâ€”or pÃªche Ã piedâ€š where locals chat in JÃ¨rriais and probe the ebb tide for shellfishâ€”the evanescent landscape remains treacherous, catching unsuspecting visitors with its rapid tidal shifts.
When an archaeological team from University College London visits the deceptive, disappearing bank in May, theyâ€™ll hardly be unsuspecting. Theyâ€™ll know the tidal drill well, as they try to learn more about the origins of lithic (stone) artifacts and mammoth remains that have emerged from the crevices and ravines that are revealed by the surf with each tide.
British hobbyists Reg Mead and Richard Miles searched for three decades on the basis of rumors of a farmer finding silver coins on his land before finding a massive hoard of 30,000-50,000 coins lying beneath a mound of clay under a hedge. The coins are believed to date from the first century B.C. and to have been struck by a tribe called the Coriosolitae who lived on the northern coast of modern-day Brittany. The theory is that the coins were buried to protect them from the Roman army advancing under the command of Julius Caesar.