Bioarchaeological analysis of a murder victim associated with the “Batavia” mutiny of 1629: The case of the ‘missing’ body

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The Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) retourschip “Batavia” was commissioned to serve as a trade vessel between Europe and the East Indies. Her maiden voyage suddenly ended 6 June 1629, wrecking on Morning Reef in the Houtman Abrolhos, off Western Australia. Amongst the earliest documented interactions in the history of European contact with Australia, what followed was a bizarre and macabre series of events that ultimately developed into a mutiny resulting in the mass murder of more than 100 individuals, in addition to a similar number of people that perished from ‘natural’ causes over a three-month period. Here, we describe the archaeological recovery and analysis of one individual most likely murdered, as evidenced by fatal cranial trauma. The skull was recovered in 1964, but the postcranial skeleton was unrecoverable at that time, and effectively remained ‘missing’ until being located in 2014, with excavation following during the 2015 field season. The reassociation of the head and body of this individual, in addition to the archaeological and physical anthropological interpretation of the skeleton and its burial context, facilitates new and interesting insight into the life history of this person and the events surrounding their demise at the hands of mutineers on Beacon Island.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-187
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Archaeology
Issue number2
Early online date31 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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