Like the rest of the Channel Islands, Guernsey is steeped in history. Up to 6,500BC, the islands were in fact part of the French mainland until the Ice Age came to an end. Discoveries in the 20th century have shown evidence of mankind dating back to 5,000 BC (New Stone Age) when tribes, possibly from Spain moved here. All around Guernsey are traces of neolithic man, including defensive earth works, menhirs and dolmens. These are burial chambers built above the ground and several survive in remarkably good condition. The largest in Guernsey, La Varde Dolmen is near the 17th green of L'Ancresse golf course and measures 10 metres long by four metres wide and has a capping stone pile of five metres long and one metre thick.
Further dolmens can be found at Hougue de Dehus, which has a burial Chamber of for 10 metres by 1.5 metres , Le Creux es Feies (the fairy grotto) and Le Trepid near to Le Catioroc which Victor Hugo claimed was haunted by the cries of women waiting for their lover, the devil. As mentioned in the section on churches, human figures carved out of granite have also had survived from around 2500. Here is a more detailed explanation of some of these with pictures.
This huge megalithic passage grave was discovered in 1811 during military exercises when human remains were found, and excavated in 1837. It is 10 metres long and with a capstone five metres long and weighing 10 tons, one can not even start to imagine how it was put in place. The structure is tall enough to stand inside and has graduating upright stones from front to rear. There is also a small oval recess. Built between 3,000 to 2,500BC, it was in use until the late Bronze age circa 1,000 BC as indicated by flints, stone tools and pottery. Successive burials or cremations were deposited within the chambers.
LE CREUX ES FAIES
Folklore has us believe that this tomb was the entrance to fairyland and that every week, the night fairies would come out to play near Le Trepied Dolmen. This neolithic passage grave is one of many fine examples on the island and date to around 3,000 BC and in use for successive burials until the late Bronze age circa 1,000. It is 9 metres long opening into a round ended chamber. Two original cap stones survive. It was excavated in 1840 and tanged flint arrowheads dated at 1,800 BC were found.
LES DEHUS DOLMEN
At first sight it looks like just a grass mound, but it owes its existence to the foresight of John de Havilland who saved it from quarrymen by purchasing it in 1775 for ?4.10.s.00. It was excavated in 1837 by F C Lukis and found to cover a complex Neolithic passage grave, 10-metres long dating back to 3,500 B.C. It has a narrow entrance and broad chamber. There are various side chambers and a capstone originally thought to be an upright, has a unique carving of a bearded archer holding a bow and arrows, discovered in 1916, known as Le Gardien du Tombeau.