Skull found on UK beach may be from centuries-old shipwreck victim

Skull found on UK beach may be from centuries-old shipwreck victim

The remains of a human skull found on a beach in the UK could be hundreds of years old, officials say.

The remains were found on a beach in Cornwall, England, according to a press release from Cornwall Council. Emily Stevenson, co-founder of a local environmental group called Beach Guardian, discovered the remains earlier in January while organizing a shoreline cleanup.

“The beach cleanup we organized that day was like any other, and I set out as usual to scour the sand dunes for plastic. The dunes are a great place to discover vintage litter, because sand can keep it perfectly fine for decades – only now do I really know that it’s not plastic that’s kept here!” she said in the press release.

The remains of a human skull found on a Cornish coast in January 2023. / Credit: Cornwall Council

The remains of a human skull found on a Cornish coast in January 2023. / Credit: Cornwall Council

The find was investigated by Devon and Cornwall Police, as well as Cornwall Council’s Historic Environment Strategy Team. The group determined that the remains were “historical in nature.”

Ann Reynolds, the senior officer of Cornwall Council’s rural historic environment team, said in the press release that it was clear the skull “has been there for some time” and said that it was possible that the remains belonged to a shipwreck victim “lost centuries ago and buried by local people.”

Reynolds said similar remains were found in November 2022. However, those found in January are better preserved, as they were encased in sand. The remains found in November also reportedly belonged to a victim of the sinking.

“Historical burials tend to appear every two years or so, but having two sets of remains appear over two months is more unusual,” Reynolds said. “It serves as a reflection of the ever-changing coastline and the potential for the discovery of more archaeological remains, especially at this time of year.”

Reynolds said the bones found in January would be searched and analyzed to obtain information such as the age of the bones and the victim’s place of origin.

In a press release announcing the discovery of the November remains, Cornish Council said it was “not unusual to find such remains along the Cornish coast”, particularly after stormy weather and cliff falls. If people find bones or other remains on the beaches, they are advised to call the police immediately. Leftovers should not be touched or moved.

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