Red Lady of Paviland: Campaign to return 33,000-year-old human skeleton to Swansea

ITV News' Rhys Williams reports on The Red Lady of Paviland - and why people want her returned to Wales

There are calls for what has been described for one of the most important archaeological discoveries in its history - a skeleton which is more than 30,000 years old - to be returned to Wales.

Described by some as “Wales’s Elgin Marbles”, The Red Lady of Paviland was discovered surrounded by mammoth tusks and the jaws of hyenas in a tiny cave on the Gower peninsula 200 years ago by an Oxford University archaeologist.

The skeleton was found in a tiny cave on what is now the Gower peninsula

Due to the religious beliefs at the time, it was thought the bones belonged to a Roman prostitute dubbed as 'The Red Lady of Paviland.'

However, 20th century carbon dating techniques revealed the bones were actually 33,000 years old and belonged to a young man, likely an ice age hunter or warrior.

This means the cave was the oldest ceremonial burial site in Western Europe.

Ffion Reynolds from Cardiff University described it as an important find for the whole of Western Europe

"Paviland is really important because it is the first ceremonial skeleton or ceremonial grave that's been discovered", said Ffion Reynolds, archeologist at Cardiff University.

"So it's an important find in Wales, but it's also an important find for the UK, but also Western Europe as a whole."

A replica of the skeleton can be viewed at Swansea museum but the original bones were taken back to Oxford, where they remain today.

A replica of the bones can be viewed at Swansea Museum

But many believe the bones should be moved to Swansea.

"This is something for Swansea , it's something for south Wales", said local writer and campaigner, Matthew Smith.

He added: "The Red Lady should come back here. Oxford have done a fantastic job for the past two-hundreds years, but now in the twenty-first century, it really is time to change things."

Campaigner Matthew Smith said its time the skeleton was returned to Wales

Debates over the restitution of museum artefacts like the Benin bronzes and Elgin marbles are gathering pace, but in the case of the Red Lady of Paviland, it’s complicated.

Professor Alex Langlands, Archeologist at Swansea University, said: "The problem with restitution is that every single artefact has its own biography.

"I think the most important thing to bare in mind is that the artefacts have been looked after, cared for, that there's a cost implication for any movement of an artefact and the most important fact to bare in mind is that they're conserved forever and for everyone."