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Archaeological fieldwork in corona times: professor Marie Soressi's story

From July 25th till August 7th, a team led by Professor Marie Soressi went to France and worked at La Grande Roche de Quinçay, a cave site located in a forested area close to the city of Poitiers. The corona outbreak triggered the need to rethink the organisation of the excavation.

Rare archaeological site

The cave that was the focus of this excavation is one of the rare archaeological sites that preserved a long sequence of deposits formed at the time of contact between late Neandertals and early Homo sapiens. Stone-tools, bone-tools and even some personal ornaments more than 40,000 years old were previously excavated in the cave. Yet the context of preservation of these archaeological finds is still to be documented, and the team was excited to get permission and funding to start what shall be a two years long project involving Leiden students and early career researchers.

Masks and disinfection

The corona outbreak triggered the need to rethink the organisation of the work. Following rules established by the Dutch and the French government, the team members worked at 1.5 meter distance, wore a mask inside the cave and regularly washed their hands. Team member mostly used their own tools and shared tools were disinfected between users. At the end of every day, all used equipment and contact surfaces were disinfected.

The corona safety protocol was quite easy to implement and every team member was happy with the output. More than 15 meters of section were documented during the campaign and several samples were taken for future microscopic analysis. The cave was open to visitors for one day which renewed the interest of the local community for the study of our ancient relatives, the Neandertals


The team is looking forward going back in the summer 2021. Students, early career researchers and researchers interested in joining the project as well as school’s teachers or member of the local community interested in visiting the cave and hearing more about the project should contact Professor Marie Soressi.

Research Master's student Jan Dekker wrote a blogpost about this excavation.

Support and funding

Fieldwork at La Grande Roche de Quinçay is supported by the French ministry of Culture, Leiden Faculty of Archaeology and the NWO (VI.C.191.070 project number).

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