Beacon Island off the western coast of Australia is better known as Murder Island or Batavia's Graveyard. The reason is simple: After the Dutch East India ship Batavia ran aground on a nearby reef in 1629, 282 survivors made it to Beacon Island, where at least 115 of them were slaughtered by mutineers over a period of three months, reports National Geographic. Experts know this in part based on journals later published by the ship's commander. But 400 years later, new details of the massacre are still emerging. Dutch and Australian archaeologists digging at the island say they've uncovered a neat grave containing the bodies of five people who were, surprisingly, not murdered. The "careful and respectful burial" is clearly "not the hurried work of hiding murder victims," archaeologist Al Patterson tells Perth Now.
"These may be people who died in the days following the wreck but before the mutiny and mass killings were under way," Patterson says. NatGeo reports they may have died of dehydration. Researchers, who plan to publish a study on the bones next year, say the discovery provides one more piece to the puzzle of what Australia's 60 Minutes has called "Australia's first and biggest mass murder." It's "totally Lord of the Flies stuff," Patterson told the program last month, describing how "psychopath" Jeronimus Cornelisz led a murderous rampage when left in charge of the survivors while the ship's commander took a longboat in search of help. Cornelisz was ultimately hanged after the commander returned. As for his victims, "horrible things happened to these individuals" but "the archaeology allows us to get their story told," Peterson says, per Fox News. (More on the Batavia here.)