More Secrets of 1629 Mutiny, Murder Unearthed

11th skeleton discovered on Beacon Island
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2015 8:50 AM CST
Updated Feb 4, 2015 9:00 AM CST
More Secrets of 1629 Mutiny, Murder Unearthed
Beacon Island, where the survivors of the Batavia shipwreck stayed and where many of them were subsequently murdered.   (By Vunz (own work) via Wikimedia Commons)

More details from "one of the darkest chapters of Australia's maritime history" are coming to light, nearly 400 years after they occurred. On June 4, 1629, the Dutch East India ship the Batavia was downed by a reef on its maiden voyage. Most of the roughly 340 people aboard managed to reach nearby Beacon Island, off Western Australia, with the ship's captain setting off in search of help in a longboat. What happened in July of that year was gruesome: The West Australian reports that more than 120 people, among them women and children, were massacred by a group of mutineers led by undermerchant Jeronimus Cornelisz: Some were felled by musket fire or swords, others poisoned or drowned. Upon the captain's return, Cornelisz and many of his men were executed, reports the BBC.

The Batavia's wreck was found in 1963, and a mass grave on the island was uncovered in 1999. Australia's ABC reports that the final day of searching the island during a 2013 expedition surfaced a tooth. Upon returning, archaeologists searched the area where the tooth was uncovered and have now found the island's 11th skeleton—with an archaeologist explaining it's the first to have been found using archaeology, while the others found to date were uncovered "by accident." Two musket balls were recovered near the remains, which are believed to be that of a youth. Jeremy Green, the WA Museum's head of maritime archaeology, says it doesn't appear the remains and the tooth are linked, however, indicating there may be another grave nearby. He frames the importance of uncovering more: "This was the first time that Europeans lived in Australia—albeit it wasn't in the mainland but it was here—so it's the oldest known European habitation in Australia." (The tragic story behind three partial skeletons was recently revealed, more than 160 years later.)

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