17th September 2017

Archaeologists found a porpoise grave

The island of Chapelle Dom Hue, off the west coast of Guernsey, was once a religious retreat, so when archaeologists digging there in 2017 found what looked like a grave cut, they weren’t entirely surprised.

However, if they’d expected to find the bones of a monk buried beneath the soil, they were only half right. They did indeed find bones – but they turned out to be porpoise, not human.

The grave, which was aligned east to west like most human graves, appeared to have been dug with some specific purpose in mind. If that was the case, though, archaeologists didn’t know what it was.

A porpoise with a purpose?

The grave was cut in medieval times where there was no such thing as dolphin-friendly tuna. Porpoise meat was sometimes part of the local diet, but States of Guernsey archaeologist Phil de Jersey asked the Guernsey Press, “if they had eaten or killed it for the blubber, why take the trouble to bury it?”

It’s a good question: with the sea just a few feet away it would have been easier to dispose of it by throwing the off-cuts into the water.

As The Guardian reported, the hole may have been cut and packed with salt, then the porpoise laid in it to preserve the meat. Alternatively, there could have been a religious reason for the burial. De Jersey told the paper that the dolphin has a strong significance in Christianity. However, it remained the most unusual find in his 35 years as an archaeologist, and not something he’d come across before. It was also unusual that it originated from medieval times, rather than the iron age.

Chapelle Dom Hue

Chapelle Dom Hue is little more than a rock, which is cut off from Guernsey at high tide. A line drawn between Lihou and Richmond Castle would pass directly through it.


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Other events that occured in September

Channel Television took to the air 1st
A Guernseyman cycled to Herm 2nd
Brecqhou was put up for sale 3rd
Renoir arrived on Guernsey to paint 4th
Ship sinks in St Sampson harbour 5th
The melon king died… long live the melon king 6th
Coronavirus returns to Guernsey 7th
HD Ferries makes its last crossing
6th Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment fought at the Somme 8th
Guernsey number plate sold for £240,000 9th
Guernsey hosted the second Island Games 10th
Major Guernsey employer Tektronix went public 11th
Guernsey was struck by a hurricane 12th
Schoolboys and teacher went missing off Sark 13th
Guernsey holidaymakers head home itching 14th
The title Baron de Saumarez was created 15th
Missing girl, Jetta, was found on Guernsey 16th
Archaeologists found a porpoise grave 17th
An Islander aircraft crashed in Guernsey 18th
Guernsey commando Hubert Nicolle died 19th
Guernsey and Jersey considered merging 20th
Occupation resister Winifred Green was deported 21st
The Devil’s Rock had its opening night 22nd
The Duke of Connaught visited Guernsey 23rd
Former bailiff Daniel de Lisle Brock died 24th
Occupation president Ambrose Sherwill died 25th
Trudy, Guernsey’s biggest ever import, was installed 26th
“Let em starve,” said Churchill 27th
A Guernsey planning dispute headed to Europe 28th
Herm tenant Major Peter Wood died 29th
Spotlight was broadcast for the first time 30th