Could 16th century skeleton found under a school belong to a pirate?

Posted at 12:26 PM, Jan 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-05 12:26:28-05

British primary school students have been treated to a real-life ancient history lesson after their playground unexpectedly turned into an archeological site.

As workers prepared to build an extension at Victoria Primary School near Newhaven, a former fishing village now part of Edinburgh, Scotland, many expected to uncover the original harbor and shipyard.

But to their surprise, they found human remains instead.

Archeologists carbon dated the skeleton to the 16th or 17th century. They believe the remains belong to a man in his 50s, who was most likely a pirate or criminal.

Edinburgh Council says a gibbet, or gallows, stood near Newhaven’s docks 600 years ago, and was commonly used to execute people alleged to be witches, pirates and criminals.

Experts say the condition of the man’s bones and its proximity to the sea and gibbet, as well as his shallow, unmarked grave, indicate he might have been publicly executed.

“Thanks to carbon dating techniques, archaeologists now know that the skeleton was likely to have been a murder victim — and quite possibly a pirate,” Councillor Richard Lewis, of Edinburgh’s City Council, said in a statement.

Forensic artist Hayley Fisher worked with AOC Archeology to create a facial reconstruction of the skull, allowing children at the school to get an idea of what the man buried beneath their school looked like.

“The pupils think it’s fantastic that a skeleton was found deep underneath their playground,” Laura Thompson, headteacher at Victoria Primary School, said.

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