One of the first recorded excavations of what is now known to be a Pleistocene archaeological and palaeontological cave site occurred in 1823 in the Goat’s Hole cave, Paviland, on the Gower Peninsula, Wales. The cave is small, dark, wet, and reeks of the excretia of sea birds, yet commands a spectacular view over the Severn estuary that in the Upper Pleistocene formed a vast plain that would ultimately link the British hunting grounds eastwards to the continent. Excavations in the cave by local amateurs attracted the interest of the Oxford geologist William Buckland, whose participation in the clearance of the cave’s sediment and publication at the end of the year ensured its lasting fame (Buckland 1823). Little did Buckland know, however, that he has described
the first known Mid Upper Palaeolithic burial. Among scant traces of what is now known to be Gravettian occupation of the cave, the excavations revealed the partial skeleton of an adult, stained with ‘ruddle’ (ochre), and associated with items of personal ornamentation and enigmatic objects of bone and ivory. Buckland was happy that the fauna recovered from the cave derived from ‘antediluvian’ deposits relating to floods, but his progressivism prohibited him from countenancing the fact that the human remains also belonged to this remote period (White and Pettitt 2009). Buckland therefore assigned the remains to the later prehistoric or Roman period, and despite originally identifying them as a male, reclassified them as a female. The resulting ‘Red Lady of Paviland’ was published in the 1823 monograph and thus entered the history of archaeology.