Human Remains Found On St Mary’s Beach Are From Medieval Man

todd stevens leg bone 2016Human remains have been discovered on a St Mary’s beach. But don’t panic – following a lengthy investigation it turns out the bone is from someone who lived at least 700 years ago.

The find was made on Porthmellon the winter before last by local diver and historian Todd Stevens, who said he immediately recognised the leg bone as human.

He took it to the local police who asked him not to report the find until they had verified it wasn’t from someone who had died recently.

Carbon dating has now shown the bone probably came from a large male living sometime between 1022 to 1206.

Todd says for the bone to have remained intact for so long, it must have been buried in an anaerobic site, like sand or mud underwater.

And he thinks it might have been disturbed from its resting place by the recent building works at St Mary’s Harbour.

Todd’s looked into the archives to try to identify the man.

He says the dates given for the bone encapsulated the episcopate of Richard Bartholomew, who controlled the two southerly islands of St Mary’s and St Agnes whilst the north islands of Scilly were then under the control of Tavistock Abbey.

He thinks the naming of Bartholomew Ledge, between St Agnes and St Mary’s, may be linked to that period.

Todd says there are no firm records of wrecks around the islands from that period, but the islands were plagued with pirates during that time.

And there are reports that Richard Bartholomew’s son, also called Richard, captured a ship of 150 pirates and had them beheaded to serve as a lesson to others.

Todd says it’s likely this gruesome deed was carried out at sea and thinks the bone may be from one of the executed pirates.

He says sadly the police wouldn’t allow him to keep his find.

You can read more about Todds discovery at his blog here.

10 Responses to Human Remains Found On St Mary’s Beach Are From Medieval Man

  1. PETERBJENKINS May 23, 2016 at 10:13 am

    prevents hiding of remains if eg advances in DNA etc, suspected crime etc. also, few people had ‘heritable property of good title ‘ in those days, so no audit trail. but where does one draw line.? see cases of Czar of russia, and Richard III for different treatment of rich, important people.Living in suffolk, i see lots of ‘anonymous’ folks recovered, of whom archaologists are most interested.

  2. scillysergeant May 22, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Kay, I think I can answer that for you. The Coroner has advised us that under the Human Tissue Act 2004 that the bone must pass into the possession of the Local Authority for disposal or burial. It cannot go back to the finder, in this instance, Todd who quite properly brought it to our attention in the first place. We are holding it safe for the council until such time as they have made their arrangements. I have read Todd’s fascinating Blog and the history he has found out about during this time is very interesting. Colin

    • Nigel Young May 23, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      There are plenty of old remains from Scilly’s history in the museum. Is there a legal reason why this bone shouldn’t be displayed there?

      • fed up now May 24, 2016 at 9:44 am

        yes, the Human Tissue Act 2004

      • scillysergeant May 24, 2016 at 5:20 pm

        The Human Tissue Act 2008 is not my forte. To fully understand its implications I would have to read it all in detail. In this instance the Coroner has given me his advice and on the basis that the Coroner invariably understands the Act better than I ever will I will comply with his instructions. Anyone looking for a loop hole can consult the Act here and with my blessing take it up with the Legal Officer at the Council.

    • Pete May 23, 2016 at 5:17 pm

      Colin. I think that your replacement will be here by the time the Council has scratched its head’s, backside’s, ummed and ard ,held at least half a dozen meetings. And they will still not have a clue what to do with it.

    • Todd Stevens May 23, 2016 at 8:14 pm

      Its not just the law at play here its house rules too. Whilst I think its a fab artifact to put on the shelf the wife does not- Enuf said. One day I’ll find the skull and want to turn that into a lamp shade- d’you think she’ll notice?

    • Kay Banfield May 23, 2016 at 10:55 pm

      Thank you Colin. In that case I would hope it goes to the local museum. It is of local historical interest and as Todd might find some more bits one day we could have our very own Blackbeard haunting the galleries of our museum.

      • Todd Stevens May 24, 2016 at 7:23 pm

        Another ghost tale for George Teideman!

  3. kay banfield May 22, 2016 at 10:54 am

    So what are they going to do with a leg bone.Have a funeral service? I can’t see why Todd can’t keep it.