The Red Lady of Paviland
As RoyMogg readers will be aware the ‘Red-Lady of Paviland’ currently resides in a box in Oxford and is the subject of action to attempt the repatriate the red-lady (actually red-bloke cos it is man!) to the land of origin Wales. The Red-Lady actually a red-ochre stained body of a man, is one of the earliest known Palaeolithic burials in the UK and quite rightly belongs as part of the heritage of the Welsh being an example of early occupation of this land some 25 to 26 thousand years ago.
The bones were discovered around 1823 by the reverend John Davies on a stroll and have been the subject of many false attributions as to what the remains were – not least that the body was of a woman not a man. One of the most colourful stories was that the ochre-stained skeleton had become a ‘painted lady’ as a consequence of the service she gave to the needs of the local Roman garrison in the camp on the hill just above the cave. It was a good story possibly dented by the fact that the woman turned out to be a man although this would have been no problem for the roman soldiers I am sure – particularly on a cold welsh night in some godforsaken posting in the south of Wales some 2 thousand years ago. This would also have given an alternative explanation to the bones being often referred to as the red queen of Paviland although for political correctness I cannot take this argument too far.
Anyhoo … in the early years of the 20th century this did not stack up as it could be seen that as well as not a female burial the mammoth ivories around the body were Palaeolithic. The red-lady has made a trip back to Wales in the meantime and is the subject of a campaign to get this fantastic artefact returned from the canny English but too no avail – there is even a campaign group dedicated to the cause called the ‘The Dead to Rights group’, set up by those who regard the removal of the skeleton as a “desecration” of a sacred site and mirrors the concerns of other groups dedicated to the return of plunder from the colonial era to their rightful place. I am not sure of their success but applaud their cause.
I have been to the cave myself some years back and it is a place of mystery especially when you are on your own – It does take you back and certainly grounded me as a modern day Welsh guy in the land where I was borne (ehh enough of this sentimental crap! ed.)