The Skeleton of a 16th Century Pirate

Archaeologists doing survey work at Victoria Primary School in Edinburgh, Scotland, came across quite a surprise when they discovered the skeleton of a 16th-century pirate underneath the playground. The playground sits atop what was once a gallows on the dockyards some 600 years ago. Based on the skeleton’s burial in the gibbet rather than in one of three nearby graveyards and its proximity to the harbor, archaeologists surmise that the man was executed for a crime — perhaps piracy — and then displayed before being buried in a shallow, unmarked grave.

“Thanks to carbon dating techniques, archaeologists now know that the skeleton was likely to have been a murder victim — and quite possibly a pirate,” Edinburgh culture convener Richard Lewis said. Archaeologists working with a forensic artist have created a facial reconstruction of the victim, revealing a man likely in his 50s. His murder was probably intended to deter other pirates.

As for the students, they think it’s “fantastic” that a centuries-old skeleton was found underneath their playground, head teacher Laura Thompson said. “The archaeologists will hold a special lesson with some of the children about how they have used science to analyze the remains,” Thompson said, “and it will be a good learning opportunity for them.” Becca Stanek.