Mysterious sailor unearthed by Cranfield archaeologists

Oct 02, 2009
The 'Made in Gosport, 1794 halfpenny. More photos are available on request.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Mystery surrounds a sailor who was unearthed as part of Cranfield University's dig at Royal Hospital Haslar this summer.

Dr Andrew Shortland and his team from Cranfield’s Centre for Archaeological and Forensic Analysis have been working at the Gosport site for three years.

Two metal discs that were probably placed over his eyes before burial were found near the skeleton; one was a medal that featured a kneeling slave engraved with the phrase 'Am I not a man and a brother?' and the other was a halfpenny with the picture of a ship and the words 'Made in Gosport, 1794'. Unlike the rest of the burials that were set out all aligned one way, this particular sailor was placed at the far end of the grave yard and out of alignment.

The area to the south-west of the building was used to bury sailors and marines that died in the hospital from 1753. It is thought the grounds could have up to 15,000 burials.

Dr Shortland said: "We believe the kneeling slave coin was bought by people to show their support for the abolition of slavery so we think we have found a very earlier abolitionist sailor.

"Some people believe coins were put on the eyelids to keep them closed but the most interesting reason involves a belief that seems to stem from Greek mythology. The Greeks used the coins to pay to get over the River Styx on their journey to the underworld."

The team started excavating the site owned by the MOD in 2007. Dr Shortland said: “The site is extremely interesting and we wanted to find out more about the many young men who died in active duty for the Royal Navy and were buried here.

"We have found several amputated limbs buried with different sailors, but this is the most mysterious find we have come across so far."

Provided by Cranfield University

Explore further: Researchers create methylation maps of Neanderthals and Denisovans, compare them to modern humans

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Father-son team find Roman Briton remains

Nov 23, 2007

The skeleton of an ancient Roman Briton apparently with some social standing was found by two men who previously unearthed a $2 million Viking treasure.

Young archaeologists dig up a mystery

Jul 05, 2007

A group of teenagers taking part in a Cambridge University archaeological dig have unexpectedly unearthed the mysterious remains of a woman who could be more than 1,000 years old.

Roman York skeleton could be early TB victim

Sep 16, 2008

The skeleton of a man discovered by archaeologists in a shallow grave on the site of the University of York's campus expansion could be that of one of Britain's earliest victims of tuberculosis. Radiocarbon dating suggests ...

New research refutes myth of pure Scandinavian race

Jun 09, 2008

A team of forensic scientists at the University of Copenhagen has studied human remains found in two ancient Danish burial grounds dating back to the iron age, and discovered a man who appears to be of arabian origin. The ...

Recommended for you

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

Apr 17, 2014

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

Apr 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...