Mystery skeleton of Royal Navy sailor who died on tiny island 300 years ago unearthed

A SKELETON dug up on a tiny islet off Guernsey is thought to have belonged to an 18th Century Royal Navy sailor.

Archaeologists were left baffled after finding the remains, which had no fingers, laid to rest alongside a handful of leather buttons.

The bones were just ten metres from the 600-year-old remains of a porpoise and experts initially believed the man to be a monk from the same era.

But on closer inspection they realised that six buttons found there matched Navy sailor dress of the 18th Century.

Scientists believe the man died on the islet of Chapelle Dom Hue around 1760.

Archaeologist Dr Phil de Jersey said the man was in his teens or early 20s when he died and was quite short, standing at around 5ft 2in.

Dr de Jersey said: "The buttons themselves gave us the best information from him, leather buttons that we could use for dating.

"They fit with the idea that he was a sailor from the Royal British Navy. It even looks like the design on them is an attempt at the Union Jack flag."

It's not clear how the man died, though experts suspect he drowned after falling overboard from a ship.

His body likely then washed up on the west coast, where locals buried him where he was found.

The man is missing his hands, probably because this is the part of the body that fish would have eaten first.

A large hole in the skull could be the result of a battering by the elements as the remains were washed up.

However, Dr de Jersey said Guernsey's highly acidic soil could have eroded the remains to their current state.

The remains were discovered in 2018 when a toe bone was spotted jutting from the soil.

A year earlier the porpoise remains were found there. Radiocarbon dating showed the animal was buried between 1416 and 1490.

Experts plan to re-bury the remains near their final resting place but first hope to study the man's bones further.

"It would be nice to keep him a bit longer and possibly get more information from his teeth, which can reveal more geographical data and more about his diet," Dr de Jersey said.

"People are fascinating to dig up, as weird as it sounds, and that is because it is more personal than pottery or flint.

"These are real people, people that are lost to history that you can bring back to life.

"We would love to find out even more about him."

UK mysteries 'solved' by archaeology

Here are some of the most exciting discoveries that have happened in Britain…

  • Richard III final resting place: The skeleton of King Richard III was discovered by archaeologists in a supermarket carpark in Leicester in 2013
  • How Stonehenge was built: The huge monoliths that make up Stonehenge may have been dragged there using greasy sledges lubricated with pig fat, according to new research from Newcastle University
  • Why there were 39 decapited skulls at the London Wall: Skulls discovered within the boundaries of ancient London back in 1988 are now believed to have belonged to gladiators who were beheaded for amusement purposes thanks to a recent reassessment of the remains
  • Queen Emma's remains: The lost bones belonging to an 11th-century English queen called Queen Emma are believed to have been found in a chest in Winchester Cathedral

In other news, a destroyed temple and ships filled with treasure were recently discovered underwater in a city described as the "Egyptian Atlantis".

The battered skeleton of a Scot brutally murdered 1,400 years ago may have been an executed royal.

Europe’s oldest human footprints have been found on a Norfolk beach – and belong to a mystery 950,000-year-old ancestor.

What do you think happened to the sailor? Let us know in the comments!

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