Stone Age hunter-gatherers weren't big on social hierarchies, let alone monarchies, researchers say, but a woman buried in a cave 18,700 years ago was clearly held in very high regard. The woman dubbed the "Red Lady," whose remains were unearthed in a cave in northern Spain, was coated in red ocher and laid to rest "right where people were living," University of New Mexico anthropologist Lawrence Guy Straus tells the New Scientist. "It's not hidden away. This person in death was kind of presiding over the activities of her people." Researchers say this appears to be the first burial site ever found from the Paleolithic Magdalenian culture, which died out around 10,000BC.
The Magdalenians, who lived in what is now Portugal and Spain, left many vivid cave paintings behind, and researchers writing in the Journal of Archaeological Science say they left lines apparently "marking the presence of the human female interment" behind what may be the woman's tombstone. "There is a motif that is a triangle—repeated lines that make a V-shape," Straus tells the New Scientist. There are also signs that floral offerings were left with the body, which all points to the conclusion that out of all the Magdalenians who lived in the area over thousands of years, "she was given some kind of special treatment," says Straus. "God only knows why." (Researchers have found evidence of a previously unknown Stone Age wheat trade.)