Pirate Skeletons From Sixteenth Century Shipwreck Discovered Off Cape Cod

by : Julia Banim on :
Pirate Skeletons From Sixteenth Century Shipwreck Discovered Off Cape CodCBS Boston/Walt Disney Pictures

At least six pirate skeletons have been discovered off the coast of Cape Cod, in the remains of a shipwreck that sank back in the sixteenth century.

The bones of the long-dead pirates were recovered from the wreck site of the Whydah, known to be the only authenticated pirate wreck on Earth.


The Whydah sank in waters off the coast of Wellfleet in 1717, bringing those aboard down with it into the depths. There it lay, until it was discovered by underwater explorer Barry Clifford and his team in 1984.

Whydah Pirate MuseumJulia Banim

Since then, historians and archaeologists have painstakingly worked to unravel the long held secrets of the Whydah, regarding it to be ‘an unprecedented and invaluable resource to study the pirates of the ‘Golden Age’,’ according to the Whydah Pirate Museum.

Over the years, artefacts recovered from the site have included gold bars, silver coins, a pistol, and – rather romantically – a heart-shaped pendant believed to have been intended for someone’s beloved.


Now, the remains of at least six skeletons have been unearthed from the fascinating and historically significant wreckage, identified in several large concretions.

The remains are now currently being investigated by Clifford and his team, who have already made great strides in identifying those who lost their lives in the shipwreck, the Boston Globe reports.

Whydah Pirate MuseumWhydah Pirate Museum

Clifford said:


We hope that modern, cutting-edge technology will help us identify these pirates and reunite them with any descendants who could be out there.


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In a statement released Wednesday, February 10, author Casey Sherman, a senior vice president at Reagan Communications who works on Clifford’s team, revealed that Whydah Captain Sam Bellamy’s DNA had been obtained in 2018 through a bloodline descendent from England.

The blood sample was tested against a human bone recovered from the wreck, and has since been found to be a match.

Sherman said:


That bone was identified as a human male with general ties to the Eastern Mediterranean area. These newly found skeletal remains may finally lead us to Bellamy as we now have his DNA.

Whydah Pirate MuseumWhydah Pirate Museum

Going forward, the concretion containing the remains of the Whydah pirates will now be displayed at the Whydah Pirate Museum.

Whydah investigators hope to continue their partnership with forensic scientists from the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven, led by Professor Tim Palmbach, Dr. Claire L. Glynn, and Dr. David San Pietro.


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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: Life


Boston Globe and 1 other
  1. Boston Globe

    Six skeletons unearthed from wreck of pirate ship Whydah off Cape Cod coast

  2. Whydah Pirate Museum

    Mission Statement