‘an Amusing Account Of A Cave In Wales’: William Buckland and the Red Lady of Paviland [Book Review]

British Journal for the History of Science 37 (1):53-74 (2004)
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In 1823 the first Reader of Geology at Oxford University, William Buckland , unearthed the human skeleton known as the ‘Red Lady’ in Paviland cave, south Wales. While the Red Lady is valued today as a central testimony of early Upper Palaeolithic humans in Britain, Buckland considered the skeleton as of postdiluvian age, meaning from after the biblical Deluge. Rather than viewing Buckland as either obscurantist or as having worked entirely within ordinary scientific practice, the paper focuses on how he managed to create an institutional and conceptual space for his geology at one of the centres for the education of the Anglican clergy, and on the impact the sometimes paradoxical demands had on his interpretation of prehistoric human relics, the Red Lady in particular. Buckland was famous if not notorious for his peculiar humour, the distracting and cathartic qualities of which, it will be argued, served as strategy in the advancement of unorthodox ideas or for glossing over inconsistencies



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