Archaeological excavations at Paviland Cave, Gower Peninsula
(Photo National Museum Wales)

Today Goat’s Hole Cave, now better known as Paviland Cave, is located on the Gower coast. Twenty-nine thousand years ago, when it was used as a burial spot for the erroneously named 'Red Lady', it overlooked flat grassy plains that extended for approximately 112km to the sea.

A reconstruction of the Paviland burial scene
(Illustration National Museum Wales)


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.