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K. Kris Hirst

Paviland Cave and the "Red Lady"

By January 7, 2013

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We get it wrong sometimes, we archaeologists, for one reason or another: it's a matter of having crummy, incomplete data, and a constantly improving science. Paviland Cave is an ideal case in point.

Paviland Cave (Wales)
William Buckland's Drawing of Paviland Cave. In William Buckland: Reliquiae Diluvianae; or, observations on the organic remains contained in caves, fissures, and diluvial gravel, and on other geological phenomena, attesting the action of an universal deluge. John Murray, London (2. Aufl. 1824, pp. 83 ff)

This drawing of Paviland or Goat's Hole Cave is from William Buckland, the original excavator of the burial known as "the Red Lady". Nearly 200 years ago, Buckland discovered in this cave a burial of a smallish person covered in red ochre, and named it the Red Lady--no doubt, said he, a Roman prostitute or witch. Recent research--benefiting from 200 years of scientific research (including Darwinian theory and radiocarbon dating)--has made clear that rather than a 2,000 year old Roman woman of odd repute, the "Red Lady" was in actuality a 30,000 year old young adult male, of likely elite status.

Comments

January 7, 2013 at 10:29 am
(1) doug l says:

Like this subject in particular; early humans in eurasia during the dynamic climate of the Pleistocene and Holocene, and am always curious as to the seemingly pervasive practice of red ochre on the dead and am reminded of stories of ‘red-earth’ burials found by european colonizers who were interested in the earliest residents of the Americas
in the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries along the Atlantic seaboard.

January 29, 2013 at 9:36 pm
(2) Rafi says:

Thanks for sharing. Is there a comprehensive timeline for all hominid archeological sites dating before 5,000 BCE?

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