1823 in South Gower, Willian Buckland, a professor of Geology at Oxford university and revered theologian, edges himself across a severe cliff face. He’s approaching Paviland Cave on a paleontological expedition. Traversing the cliffside, Buckland enters into Goat's Hole Cave. Here he stumbles upon a hoard of my carved tusks, accompanying evidence of a ceremonial human burial, with bones dyed and stained with red ochre - Unknown to him, my remains at his feet make up part of the oldest known ceremonial burial site in Western Europe. He names these human bones 'The Red Lady of Paviland.' By the time a second archaeological excavation is undertaken at Paviland Cave in 1912, it is recognised that the bones belong to a man.
“I found the skeleton enveloped by a coating of a kind of ruddle .... Close to that part of the thigh bone where the pocket is usually worn [were] about two handfuls of the [periwinkle shells]. At another part of the skeleton, [were] forty or fifty fragments of ivory rods and some small fragments of rings made of the same ivory ... Both rods and rings were stained superficially with red, and lay in the same red substance that enveloped the bones”
- From the journal of William Buckland, 1823
Comparing our remains to other discoveries around Europe we’re revealed to be pre-hist-oric. 33,000 years old, radiocarbon dating tells us. My ivory is of Mammoth, and the body I decorated was my hunter.
Buckland’s words were true, for a while though. He put words and thoughts out into the world and made them true. We exist in duality now. Archaic man, wise woman, elephant, mammoth, hunter, whore. Time travellers without even trying.
But for now, just the memory of Palaeolithic bones in Palaeolithic flesh touching silty old Doggerland and my hot, soft mammoth hyde swaddling babe and bampi alike.
Bristol, 2021