Introduction

Island of Herm from the southwest; low-lying area of The Common at the far left.

The small island of Herm in the Guernsey archipelago is home to a large number of megalithic tombs built by early farmers between the 5th and 3rd millennia BC. It also offers a rare opportunity to explore the landscape in which these tombs were built, for they stand beside (or in one case within) a low-lying plain (“The Common”) fringed by tall coastal dunes and covered by wind-blown sand. The density of tombs suggests that the northern end of Herm may have been a place set apart for funerary activity. We are seeking to test this idea by excavating trenches through the sand to expose areas of the buried Neolithic land surface so that we can assess the character of the Neolithic occupation.

The three-year project is directed by Professor Chris Scarre (Department of Archaeology, Durham University), supported by a team of specialists from the Universities of Durham, Cambridge and Oxford and from the Guernsey Museum. We are grateful to the people of Herm and to the former (Adrian & Penny Heywood) and current (John Singer) tenants of the island for their warm welcome and for permission to carry out the work. A special vote of thanks goes to the archaeology division of the Guernsey Museum, and to all those students and volunteers from Durham and Guernsey who have taken part in the project. The project is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

Text and photographs copyright Professor Chris Scarre, Department of Archaeology, Durham University.