Monday, November 05, 2007

Oldest UK skeleton even older than previously thought


Scientists say more accurate tests date the earliest human burial found in the UK to just over 29,000 years ago.

The skeleton of the Red Lady - actually a young male - was discovered at Goat's Hole Cave at Paviland on Gower in 1823 by William Buckland, then a geology professor at Oxford University. It owes its name to the red ochre covering the bones. When discovered the bones were thought to be around 18,000 years old, but were later redated to between 25,000 and 26,000. The remains were found along with a number of artefacts including ivory wands, bracelets and periwinkle shells.

"The remains and artefacts were previously difficult to date accurately," said Dr Higham.

"Many of the bones were treated with preservations in the 19th Century and some of this contamination is often difficult to remove."

He said their analysis was the bones were "just over" 29,000 years old.

It would mean The Red Lady lived in an age when the climate was much warmer than it would have been 4,000 years later.