Shipwreck Databases Western Australian Museum

Batavia skeletal research

Author/s D. Franklin and M. Stanbury

Year of publication 2007

Report Number: 231

IntroductionCarrying a complement of approximately 316 people, the Batavia embarked from Amsterdam on 29 October 1628, destined for Batavia (modern day Jakarta). Cramped on board were men, women and children of various socio-economic backgrounds and nationalities, including VOC officers and crew, in addition to naval cadets, passengers and soldiers (Drake-Brockman, 1963). Originally sailing alongside a fleet of six other ships, the Batavia was subsequently separated, and wrecked on Morning Reef in the Houtman Abrolhos off Australia’s west coast on 4 June 1629. The ship’s Commander, Francisco Pelsaert, had survivors landed on nearby Beacon Island, and then embarked on a rescue voyage. During Pelsaert’s absence, an unsuccessful mutiny attempt resulted in the murder of at least 125 people (van Huystee, 1998). Human skeletal material has been recovered from excavations of the Batavia land sites since the 1960s. Four individual burials were discovered between 1960 and 1964. A further six individuals were recovered from a multiple burial between 1994 and 2001. All are believed to be victims of the slaughter. Some brief descriptions of the multiple burial materials have been made by Pasveer et al., (1998) and Pasveer (2000). More detailed analyses of the total sample were made by Franklin (2001); Franklin & Freedman (2003, 2006). We have permission from the Western Australian Museum to study the Batavia skeletal material, which comprises 10 individuals: 7 adults (sex assessed morphologically as 6 male & 1 female); 3 juveniles (sex unknown).