Rhossili, Swansea, SA3 1PE
Goat’s Hole, one of the Paviland Caves, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Europe if not the world due to the discovery of the “Red Lady of Paviland” in 1823. The cave is 10 metres high and 7 metres wide with a chimney above extending to 20m in height.
An initial excavation of the site was made in 1822 by Miss Talbot of Penrice Castle and others but nothing of significance was found. This excavation provoked the interest of Rev. William Buckland and in 1823 whilst making his own excavation he discovered the skeletal bones of what he believed to be a woman whose bones had been coloured red by ochre. He believed that the skeleton probably belonged to a prostitute or witch of the Roman era.
Subsequent dating of the skeletal bones have revealed that it dates back to 31000 BC, resulting in it being recognised as the earliest evidence of ceremonial burial in Europe.
Also further investigations have revealed that indeed the skeleton is of a man of around 21 years of age who was in good health at the time of death. Bone protein analysis has identified that his diet was 20% fish and a balance of horse, reindeer, roots, berries and acorns thus earmarking as the earliest evidence of Upper Palaeolithic remains.
Paviland Cave (Goat’s Hole), Gower Peninsula
Although Goat’s Hole is situated high above sea level overlooking the Bristol Channel towards Devon, at the time when this young man was living it was an inland cave, with the area of the Bristol Channel being a 70 mile wide hunting and grazing plain.
It is understood that the bones were found behind the skull of a mammoth although there is no evidence of this skull.
Further excavations since that time have revealed 4000 flints, necklace bones, stone needles and mammoth ivory bracelets. (These items can be seen at Swansea Museum).
The “Red Lady of Paviland” can be found in the University of Oxford Museum as at the time of it being found there was no suitable alternative home in Wales. Recent efforts have been made to have the remains returned to either Gower or Cardiff, so far without success. (There is a replica of the skeletal bones at Swansea Museum).
Paviland Cave does not have an easy approach and walking boots are definitely recommended.
The approach to Paviland Cave calls for sturdy footwear
Paviland Cave – whose real name is “Goat’s Hole” is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Britain. It is best known for the “Red Lady of Paviland” (a headless skeleton of a man, mistakenly identified as a woman, stained red with ochre) who lived 18000 years ago. The remains are in Oxford but a replica of the skeleton is on display at Swansea Museum.
Replica, Red Lady of Paviland
Other objects found in the cave include jewellery made from reindeer teeth and mammoth ivory and worked flint tools. Some exhibits can be seen in Swansea Museum.
In the last Ice Age, Goat’s Hole would have been inhabited as an inland cave, overlooking the valley and river towards Devon.
Paviland Cave does not have an easy approach and walking boots are definitely recommended. Parking is limited but available near the main road to Rhossili. Alternatively, you could walk West along the Wales Coastal Path from Overton Mere, near the village of Port Eynon or East from the car park for Mewslade Bay, Rhossili.
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