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Bones and Ochre: The Curious Afterlife of the Red Lady of Paviland

Bones and Ochre: The Curious Afterlife of the Red Lady of Paviland

by Marianne Sommer


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Marianne Sommer unravels a riveting tale about a set of ancient human bones and their curious afterlife as a scientific object.

When the ochre-stained bones were unearthed in a Welsh cave in 1823, they inspired unsettling questions regarding their origin. Their discoverer, William Buckland, declared the remains to be Post-Diluvian, possibly those of a taxman murdered by smugglers. Shortly thereafter he reinterpreted the bones as those of a female fortune-teller in Roman Britain—and so began the casting and recasting of the Red Lady. Anthropologist William Sollas re-excavated Paviland Cave, applying methods and theories not available to Buckland some ninety years earlier, and concluded that the skeleton was male and Cro-Magnon. Recently, an interdisciplinary team excavated the cave and reinterpreted its contents. Despite their "definitive report" in 2000, Sommer suggests this latest project still hasn't solved the mystery of the Red Lady. Rather, the Red Lady, now a shaman and icon of Welsh ancient history, continues to be implicated in questions of scientific and political authority.

The biography of the Red Lady reflects the personal, professional, and national ambitions of those who studied her and echoes the era in which the research was conducted. In Bones and Ochre, Sommer reveals how paleoanthropology has emerged as an international, interdisciplinary, modern science.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674024991
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 02/28/2008
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Marianne Sommer is a historian of science at ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

Table of Contents


Part One: William Buckland (1784-1856), an Ancient British Witch, and the Question of Human Antiquity

1. William Buckland (1784-1856)

2. Man among the Cannibalistic Hyena?

3. The Romance of the Witch of Paviland

4. Buckland Accused

5. Man as a Crocodile Superior?

6. The Holy Order of Nature and Society

Conclusion: The Red Lady Is No Fossil Man

Part Two: William Sollas (1849-1936), a Cro-Magnon Man, and Issues of Human Evolution

7. William Sollas (1849-1936)

8. Ancient Hunters and Their Modern Representatives

9. The Red Lady Is a Cro-Magnon Man

10. Human Evolution as Trunkless Tree

11. The "Evolutionary" Versus the "Historical" Model

12. The Moral Authority of Nature

Conclusion: Turbulent Times for an "Old Lady"

Part Three: An Interdisciplinary Team, an Early Upper Paleolithic Shaman, and a Definitive Report

13. The Paviland Project and Its Results

14. There is Magic at Work

15. Visualizing Paviland Cave

16. The End of the Red Lady's Story—A Definitive Report?

Conclusion: An Unfinished Life


Appendix A: Archaeological and Geological Series

Appendix B: Schematized Views of Human Evolution




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