Places of interest: Paviland cave

Cave Gower Abseiling

Paviland Cave or Goat’s Hole on the coast of Gower is the most significant archaeological site in Britain of the earlier Upper Palaeolithic period. It was the location of the first excavation of a human skeleton and of the first recovery of a human fossil: the misnamed ‘Red Lady’. Discovered in 1823, the fossilised skeleton was at first thought to be of recent date and female. However, it is now known to have been a ceremonially buried young adult male, a representative of the early humans who entered Europe around 40,000 years ago, during the last ice age.


The Red Lady burial has been dated to about 29,000 years ago, during a mild climatic phase before the ice age. It was placed alongside the cave wall, associated with a mammoth skull, stained with red ochre and accompanied by worked bone and ivory, perforated teeth and fragments of perforated shells, all stained red.

The Red Lady is the oldest anatomically modern human skeleton found in Britain, and therefore it is thought that Paviland is the site of the oldest ceremonial burial in western Europe.

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