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“The Red Lady” of Spain

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

 

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO—The 18,700-year-old bones of a woman whose remains were found in northern Spain’s El Mirón Cave is the first Magdalenian burial to be found in the Iberian Peninsula, according to Lawrence Straus of the University of New Mexico and Manuel González Morales of the University of Cantabria. They discovered the grave behind a block of engraved limestone that had fallen from the ceiling of the cave. “The lines seem to be sort of random, but there is a motif that is a triangle—repeated lines that make a V-shape. What is being represented, at least by some of these lines, might be a female person. Conceivably, this block serves as some kind of marker,” Straus told New Scientist. They first glimpsed a jaw and a tibia covered in ochre, and later recovered more than 100 of the woman’s bones, which had been placed in the small space after her body had decomposed. A carnivore’s teeth marks on the tibia may account for the missing skull and long bones. Dubbed “The Red Lady,” the woman was between 35 and 40 years old at the time of death, and she ate ibex, red deer, fish, mushrooms, fungi, and seeds. The ochre on her bones “is a color that in their lives must have been very spectacular,” Straus added. To read about a spectacular piece of Paleolithic art, see "A New Life for Lion Man."

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