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400-year-old 'pirate' skeleton found buried under school

 Pirate's bones have been found in an Edinburgh school

SHIVER me timbers! And, indeed, avast! A skeleton has been discovered buried under a primary school playground, and archaeologists reckon it could belong to a 16th century pirate.

The remains of the scurvy seadog 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.

Reconstruction of pirate found under Edinburgh primary school
(Hayley Fisher/City of Edinburgh Council/PA)


The school, the city’s oldest working primary, is located near Newhaven harbour where a gibbet once stood for public executions.

It is believed 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 location of the burial close to the sea and gibbet – rather than at one of three nearby graveyards – suggests the man was killed and then displayed to deter other pirates.

Pirate unearthed under Edinburgh primary school
(Graham Clark/City of Edinburgh Council/PA)


Councillor 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.”

Newhaven, Edinburgh
(Leila Arfa/Flickr)


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.”

After which they can all go back to learning their pieces of eight times table.

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