Paviland Cave

Goat's Hole Cave

Useful Information

Location: Paviland, Gower peninsula, South Wales.
(51.550086, -4.255186)
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch
Dimension: H=10 m, W=7 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1822 first excavation by Mr. L W Dillwyn and Miss Talbot of Penrice Castle.
1823 the first recorded discovery of fossil human remains by Rev. William Buckland.
1912 second excavation.


Goat's Hole Cave, better known under the name Paviland Cave, has its important entry in science history. It is the place where for the very first time the discovery of fossil human remains is recorded. Rev. William Buckland discovered in 1823 a skeleton, and he was the first who recognized that is was a remain of a former time, and wrote about it. Subsequently the new sciene archeology developed, so this is the birth place of a new science.

However, each birth is connected with pain, and the discovery of William Buckland is connected with complete error: he misjudged both its age and its sex. Buckland was reverend and a devout Christian, he believed no human remains could be older than the Biblical Great Flood. This catastrophism theory, which reappears in term like diluvium, had still to be overcome. Buckland believed the skeleton was from Roman times. And as it was discovered with decorative items, including perforated seashell necklaces and ivory jewelry, he thought it was a woman. The person was covered by red ochre, so soon it was commonly known as Red Lady of Paviland.

Modern archaeology identified the Red Lady of Paviland as a man, no older than 21, who lived 29,000 years ago (26,350 ± 550 BP, OxA-1815) at the end of the Upper Paleolithic Period. The skeleton was found along with a mammoth's skull, which has since been lost. The formal burial ceremony, the number and kind of items, suggest he was a tribal chieftain. This is the oldest known burial in the UK and western Europe.

When the man was buried, the cave was about 120 km from the sea. The cave was overlooking a plain similar to present day Siberia with tundra vegetation. The ice sheet of the Devensian Glaciation, the last ice age, advanced towards the site, and the weather was cold, 10 °C in summer, -20° in winter.