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15 May 2004
Campaign to return 'Red Lady' to Wales

An Elgin Marbles-style campaign has begun to secure the return to Wales of the Red Lady of Paviland, one of the world's most important archaeological finds. The skeleton of the 'Red Lady' complete with jewellery and a mammoth's head marker was discovered in 1823 at Paviland Cave on Gower. Later analysis showed the skeleton to be that of a man, possibly a chieftain, but the Red Lady tag stuck. It emerged that the bones, stained by red ochre, were the oldest ceremonially buried remains ever found in Western Europe, as they go back to 24,000 BCE.
     But the prize was taken away from Wales within a year of being found. The Rev William Buckland, who carried out the excavation, was the first Professor of Geology at Oxford at the time. As a result, the Red Lady of Paviland is now on display at the Oxford University Natural History Museum. Swansea Museum and the National Museum at Cardiff only have plastic copies of the skeleton. But now Swansea councillor Ioan Richard is starting a campaign to get the Red Lady back in Wales. However, it seems unlikely the priceless bones will make the return journey to Swansea along the M4 without immense political pressure.
     Asked yesterday if there was a possibility of the Red Lady coming back to Swansea, Oxford University National History Museum administrator Wendy Shepherd said, "Not a chance." She added, "This goes back to the days when archaeologists who made finds had the say on where they would go on display." Oxford museum's director Professor Jim Kennedy said the Red Lady and some of the jewellery and other associated finds were an important part of the museum's collection and were well looked after. But David Laws, from Oxwich, Gower, close to where the Red Lady was first discovered claims when he visited the skeleton exhibition in Oxford he found it "in a dusty cabinet". And he labelled the display "pathetic". He said, "This is an internationally significant find which we could display to far greater effect here." Ros Gee, curator of Swansea Museum, said attempts had been made to acquire the Red Lady from Oxford in the past but always without success.

Source: icWales (13 May 2004)

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