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New horrors unravelled in the story of the Batavia shipwreck

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The story of the Batavia shipwreck is one of the most haunting tales of survival against a group of mutineers committing horrendous acts and atrocities.

The Batavia was the flagship of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), built in Amsterdam in 1628 and launched on her maiden voyage that same year to obtain spices from Batavia (the ship’s namesake) in the Dutch East Indies.

The ship was commanded by Francisco Pelsaert, with Ariaen Jacobsz serving as the skipper. According to an account written by Pelsaert, Jacobsz, along with Jeronimus Cornelisz and several men, plotted a mutiny to take the ship and steal the supply of gold and silver onboard.

Jacobsz is alleged to have deliberately steered the ship off course and had his men sexually assault a prominent passenger, Lucretia Jans, who was travelling to join her husband in Batavia.

Jacobsz had hoped that this would provoke Pelsaert into severely disciplining the crew causing an uprising, however, Lucretia was unable to identify her attackers and the incident was dropped.

On the 4th of June, 1629, the ship foundered upon the reefs of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands off the western coast of Australia. Of the 322 aboard, most of the passengers and crew managed to get ashore to present-day Beacon Island, although 40 people drowned.

Pelsaert and Jacobsz left the marooned ship in the hope of reaching Batavia to form a rescue party. In their absence, Cornelisz was elected to lead and commandeered all weapons and food supplies.

He started to terrorise the remaining survivors, forming a gang of mutineers that murdered and raped, with Cornelisz using Lucretia as his own personal sex slave. In total, the mutineers murdered at least 110 men, women, and children.

Upon Pelsaert and Jacobsz reaching Batavia, Jacobsz was arrested for negligence, while Pelsaert was giving command of another ship to rescue the survivors. After arriving back at Beacon Island, he discovered that a bloody massacre had taken place.

Pelsaert conducted a trial and sentenced the worst offenders to be taken to Seal Island and executed, while Cornelisz and several of his henchmen had both their hands chopped off and were hanged.

Beacon Island burials – Image Credit : The University of Western Australia

An archaeological project led by archaeologists from the University of Western Australia and the Western Australian Museum has unravelled new horrors in the story of the Batavia shipwreck, revealing 12 of the victims buried in a mass grave, single and multiple burials, as well as evidence of the struggle between the survivors and mutineers.

The study, published in the journal Historical Archaeology, has used underwater findings in combination with archaeological evidence on land to understand the behavioural responses of survivors, including their initial movement from the wreck to nearby islands, the struggles they faced, and the shifting power dynamics among mutineers and survivors.

Lead author Professor Alistair Paterson, from UWA’s School of Social Sciences and the Oceans Institute, said: “The excavation of human remains reveals insights into the treatment and burial practices of victims. Notably, centrally located graves on Beacon Island suggest a functioning graveyard, potentially representing victims from the early days following the wreck.”

“Other islands within the vicinity, such as Long (Seals) Island and West Wallabi Island, provide evidence of makeshift weapons, the presence of resistance factions, and structures associated with the survivors. The landscape on Long Island contains a concentration of iron fastenings believed to be the gallows site where mutineers were executed, reflecting the company’s attempt to establish order,” added Professor Paterson.

Future research in a new ARC Project ‘Mobilising Dutch East India Company collections for new global stories’ involves further forensic analysis of the human remains, including physical assessment, stable-isotope technology and DNA studies and new historical research.

The University of Western Australia

Header Image Credit : State Library of New South Wales – Public Domain

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Archaeology

Excavation uncovers traces of the first bishop’s palace at Merseburg Cathedral Hill

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Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered traces of the first bishop’s palace at the southern end of the Merseburg Cathedral Hill in Merseburg, Germany.

Construction of the early Romanesque Merseburg Cathedral was begun by Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg in 1015.

It was consecrated in 1021 in the presence of Emperor Heinrich II (Henry II), however, following a series of collapses in the eastern part of the structure, the cathedral wouldn’t be formally consecrated and opened until 1042 by Bishop Hunold.

The Merseburg Cathedral of St. John and St. Lawrence is today considered one of the most important cathedral buildings in Germany.

The LDA team were excavating the basement of the so-called Martinikurie, a two-story residential building from the Baroque period. Excavations revealed the remains of the first bishop’s palace, dating from from the time of the second consecration of Merseburg Cathedral.

According to the LDA: “We found the almost completely preserved basement-like lower floor of a hall building, whose 1.75 metre thick foundation walls are still preserved up to a height of 3.40 metres. Steps in the masonry and a pillar from the time of construction inside the building prove that at least one hall-like upper floor once stood on top of this.”
The palace was constructed by Bishop Hunold, who headed the diocese of Merseburg between 1036 and 1050.

“This finding makes it possible to locate one of the most important buildings of the episcopal see in Merseburg – a building that, with its location and size, clearly expresses the self-confidence of the diocese, which was re-founded in 1004 by King Henry II of Germany” added the LDA.

Header Image Credit : LDA

Sources : State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA)

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeologists find ancient papyri with correspondence made by Roman centurions

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Archaeologists from the University of Wrocław have uncovered ancient papyri that contains the correspondence of Roman centurions who were stationed in Egypt.

The papyri were discovered in Berenice Troglodytica, an ancient seaport of Egypt on the western shore of the Red Sea. The city was founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–246 BC), who named it after his mother, Berenice I of Egypt.

During the Roman period, Berenice Troglodytica was one of the main waystations for the trade in war elephants and exotic goods, imported from India, Sri Lanka, Arabia, and Upper Egypt.

Excavations of an animal cemetery located on the western outskirts of the city have uncovered an accumulation of ceramics originating from the Mediterranean, Africa and India.

Image Credit : Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego

Among the accumulation, the team found Roman coins, a fibula, ostracons (fragments of texts on ceramics), and several papyri.

The papyri contains the correspondence of centurions, naming Haosus, Lucinius and Petronius. Centurions were soldiers who were promoted to command a centuria or “century”, a military unit consisting of between 80 to 100 men.

“In the correspondence, Petronius asks Lucinius (stationed in Berenice Troglodytica) about the prices of individual exclusive goods. There is also the statement: “I am giving you the money, I am sending it by dromedarius (a unit of legionnaires moving on dromedaries). Take care of them, provide them with veal and poles for their tents.”

Dr. Marta Osypińska from the Institute of Archaeology of the University of Wrocław, said: “For Egyptologists and other scientists dealing with antiquity, this is an extremely rare and high-calibre discovery.”

“In this part of the world, there are very few sites from the Roman period. The Egyptians tend to leave little historical accounts from this time in history, because it is the moment when they were conquered.” added  Dr. Osypińska.

Header Image Credit : Instytut Archeologii Uniwersytetu Wrocławskiego

Sources : PAP

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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