‘Pirate’ skeleton found under Edinburgh primary school

A skeleton buried under a 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. Victoria, the city’s oldest primary school, is near Newhaven harbour, where a gibbet once stood on the dockyards 600 years ago.

The man might have been executed for piracy or other crimes, before being buried in a shallow, unmarked grave. The condition of the bones, and location of the burial close to the sea and gibbet, rather than at one of three nearby graveyards, suggest the man was killed before being displayed, to deter other pirates.

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


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