Palaeolithic - Modern Humans
Modern humans first moved into Britain during the early Upper Palaeolithic, a period of encroaching
glaciation with, at its height, ice virtually covering the whole of Wales to a thickness of some 300 metres.
It is not fully understood how modern humans replaced Neanderthals, although it is thought that the latter were
less well equipped to adapt to the changing climate. Studies measuring the carbon and nitrogen isotopes found
in the protein of ancient bones have concluded that modern humans had a varied diet that included meat, fish
and seafood, whereas the Neanderthal diet was less diverse. This would be problematic if the change in climate
led to a reduction in the availability of a chief food source.
The earliest modern human found in Western Europe to-date was discovered
within Paviland Cave on the Gower coast. The burial of ‘the Red Lady’, since
identified as a young man, has been dated to 29,000 years ago.
A horse jawbone etched with zigzags is the oldest known piece of Welsh
artwork, recently dated to some 13,500 years ago. It was discovered in Kendrick’s
Cave near Llandudno, together with the bones of four human individuals. It is thought that
the humans retreated before the advancing ice sheets, moving south across Europe and leaving
Britain uninhabited for some 10,000 years. However, seasonal visits to certain areas, including
south and south west Wales, may have occurred even at the height of glaciation.