Skeleton in playground may be 16th-century pirate

Remains found on grounds of Scottish primary-school could be those of executed man

A skeleton found on the grounds of a Scottish primary-school could be that of a 16th-century pirate, archaeologists have said. Photograph: Graham Clark/City of Edinburgh Council/PA Wire

A skeleton found on the grounds of a Scottish primary-school could be that of a 16th-century pirate, archaeologists have said. Photograph: Graham Clark/City of Edinburgh Council/PA Wire

 

A skeleton discovered buried under a Scottish primary-school playground could be that of a 16th-century pirate, archaeologists have said.

The remains of a man were uncovered by council workers during survey work for an extension at Victoria Primary School in Newhaven, Edinburgh, last year.

Experts at AOC Archaeology carbon dated the bones to the 16th- or 17th- centuries and, working with forensic artist Hayley Fisher, created a facial reconstruction of the man, thought to have been in his 50s.

The building, the city’s oldest working primary-school, is located near Newhaven harbour, where a gibbet once stood on the dockyards 600 years ago.

It is believed that the man could have been executed for piracy or other crimes, before being buried in a shallow, unmarked grave.

Archaeologists said the condition of the bones and the location of the burial, close to the sea and gibbet, rather than at one of three nearby graveyards, suggests that the man was killed before being displayed to deter other pirates.

‘Intriguing past’

Cllr Richard Lewis, culture convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Edinburgh has an undeniably intriguing past and some of our archaeological discoveries have been in the strangest of places.

“Thanks to carbon dating techniques, archaeologists now know that the skeleton was likely to have been a murder victim - and quite possibly a pirate.

“It’s fantastic that through the council’s archaeology and museums service, we are able to investigate such discoveries and add to our understanding of Newhaven’s heritage.”

Head teacher Laura Thompson said: “The pupils think it’s fantastic that a skeleton was found deep underneath their playground.

“The archaeologists will hold a special lesson with some of the children about how they have used science to analyse the remains and it will be a good learning opportunity for them.”

PA