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Origins: in search of Early Wales

Welsh skeleton known as "The Red Lady" ages 4,000 years in new research.


Earliest formal human burial in Western Europe is highlight of new archaeology galleries at National Museum Cardiff.


To be exhibited in Wales for first time.


The earliest formal human burial in western Europe has been re-dated as 29,000 years old and, for the first time since its discovery in 1823, the remains of "The Red Lady of Paviland" will be displayed at National Museum Cardiff from Saturday, 8 December 2007 as part of Origins: in search of Early Wales. The exhibit is on loan for a year from Oxford University Museum of Natural History.


The remains, found in Goat’s Hole Cave, Paviland, on the Gower Peninsula in Wales, were discovered and excavated in 1823 by William Buckland, Professor of Geology at Oxford University. The skeleton of the Red Lady – actually that of a young male – owes its name to the red ochre covering the bones. New dating, led by Dr Thomas Higham of Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, and Dr Roger Jacobi of the British Museum, has revealed that the remains are 4,000 years older than previously thought, making this the oldest known ceremonial burial in western Europe and about nine times older than that of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.


Other highlights in Origins include the first evidence for a two-dimensional art style in Wales – the Bryn Celli Ddu stone, from Anglesey, timeless designs in gold from Bronze Age Wales such as the Capel Isaf bracelets and the Burton hoard neck pendant, one of the finest prehistoric iron objects from western Europe, the Capel Garmon firedog – a flamboyant expression of prestige and investment in the Iron Age and a masterpiece of Celtic blacksmithing, the Abergavenny cup, a stunning example of classical Roman craftsmanship with its bronze handle in the form of a spotted leopard (1st or 2nd century AD) – a striking illustration of the cultural and economic impact of the Roman occupation, the Smalls sword guard, decorated in the latest Viking art style and lost at sea 16 miles off the Pembrokeshire coast about AD 1125-50, and a rare survival from the Reformation – a 13th-century painted figure of Christ from a rood (Crucifixion), discovered in the 19th century hidden behind the walled up access to the rood loft at Kemeys Inferior Church, Monmouthshire.


According to Dr Mark Redknap of the Department of Archaeology & Numismatics:


 “The objects chosen for display are just a small selection of many magnificent objects discovered in Wales. Since the opening of the old galleries in the 1970s, there have been three decades of new discoveries and research, as well as advances in the way in which museums engage with their audiences. The collections and their revised interpretations – rich and illuminating – help us to understand ourselves, and Wales, today.”


The exhibition will focus on people and change, while contemporary relevance will also be made visually explicit. The past as a spur to creativity – art, photography, sculpture, music, animation – will also have a dynamic presence in the gallery which will include new works commissioned for the exhibition.




Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales administers seven national museums across Wales. They are National Museum Cardiff; St Fagans: National History Museum; National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon; Big Pit: National Coal Museum, Blaenafon; National Wool Museum, Dre-fach Felindre; National Slate Museum, Llanberis and the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea.


Entry to all national museums is free, thanks to the support of the Welsh Assembly Government.


For further information please contact

Emma Cunningham 0208 516 2646 / or

Sian James, Corporate Communications Officer (029) 2057 3175 /


Date: 8 December 2007
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