Straus, Distinguished Prof. of Anthropology
Straus excavating in El Mirón Cave in the Cantabrian Mountains of Spain.

As part of the Ancestors Lecture series, the University of New Mexico Maxwell Museum presents, “The Red Lady of El Mirón Cave”: 19,000 year-old Magdalenian Burial in Northern Spain with speaker Lawrence Guy Straus, UNM Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, on Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to all.

Nearing the conclusion of two decades of excavation in El Mirón Cave in the Cantabrian Mountains of Spain, Straus, his colleague Manuel González Morales and their students discovered the partial skeleton of an adult woman. Named the “Red Lady of El Mirón”, her body and bones as well as the burial layer sediments were carefully coated with red ochre that contained sparkling hematite crystals. The Red Lady was 35 to 40 years old, of average stature, apparently healthy and relatively strong. Straus doesn’t know what made her special, but her burial is highly unusual.

Ceremonially buried 19,000 years ago within a Lower Magdalenian archeological level, the spectacular discovery was reported in a special issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science and awarded one of the ten most important research findings of 2015 by the University of New Mexico. Straus will present an interpretation of “the Red Lady of El Mirón”, including discussion of her physical characteristics, DNA, health, diet, the ritual nature of her burial and re-burial and the deliberate manipulation of her remains during the Lower Magdalenian,  a period of intensive human occupation and artistic activity during the final part of the Last Glacial age.

Straus, the grandson and great-grandson of early amateur prehistorians in SW France, is the Leslie Spier Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at UNM, where he has taught since 1975. He received his A.B., A.M. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Chicago.

Straus began excavating at the age of 14 in New Hampshire and did archeological field work in France, the U.S. Southwest and Middle West before becoming a specialist in the Upper Paleolithic of Western Europe. He has been editor of UNM's Journal of Anthropological Research since 1995 and delivered the Maxwell's first Ancestors Lecture at the inauguration of the Ancestors Exhibit.

For more information, contact: Mary Beth Hermans at 505- 277-1400; mhermans@unm.edu.