Pirate skeletons from 1717 shipwreck discovered off Cape Cod coast

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Photo courtesy of Whydah Pirate Museum

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WEST YARMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) — At least six pirate skeletons were found in a shipwreck off the coast of Cape Cod, the investigative team from the Whydah Pirate Museum announced Wednesday.

Investigators say the remains were discovered at the wreck site of The Whydah, which went down off Wellfleet, Massachusetts, in 1717. The captain of the ship, Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, is listed as the most successful pirate in history by Forbes Magazine.

The skeletons were found in several large concretions and are now being examined by Barry Clifford, who first discovered the wreckage in 1984 along with his team of archeologists.

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

“This shipwreck is very sacred ground,” he continued. “We know a third of the crew was of African origin and the fact they had robbed the Whydah, which was a slave ship, presents them in a whole new light. Their benevolent captain, the legendary Samuel ‘Black Sam’ Bellamy, and crew were experimenting in democracy long before the so-called civilized societies had considered such a thing.”

Whydah team member Casey Sherman discovered Bellamy’s DNA through a bloodline descendent in England in 2018 and had the sample tested against a human bone found in the wreck, according to the museum.

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

The concretion holding the remains of the original Whydah pirate is now on display at the museum.

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