The ill-fated voyage of the Batavia
By Katy Meyers
On October 29, 1628, The Batavia left the port of Amsterdam setting sail for what is now Jakarta. The 316 people on board included men, women and children of various classes, nationalities, and a full complement of soldiers. What happened next has become infamous – but now the archaeological evidence is finally being reported.
The conditions on-board were poor over the long journey with a short respite at the Cape of Good Hope. It was here that two officers, named Jacobsz and Cornelisz, accompanied by a female passenger, left The Batavia for another boat in the fleet without permission. For this and their drunken behaviour, they were severely punished by the ship’s commander.
Jacobsz and Cornelisz decided they would convince the crew to mutiny and take over the ship, but these plans were not to be, as the ship wrecked on the Morning Reef off Australia’s Western Coast.
The Batavia’s commander set sail with a small company to Jakarta to seek help and Cornelisz was left in charge of the crew and passengers left behind on Beacon Island.
The terror began as he set up a ruling council and systematically began murdering anyone who was against his rule. The victims were drowned, strangled or killed with weapons and disposed of in unmarked graves. When rescue arrived they found that Cornelisz and the mutineers had murdered 125 individuals.
In the 1960′s, four individuals who had been murdered, were excavated by archaeologists and in the 1990′s a multiple burial was found containing 6 individuals. Despite the national importance and macabre nature of this event, the results of this excavation have never been released until this new article by Franklin (2012) which discusses the multiple burial found during the 1990′s.
Read the full article: [Adult Version of Lord of the Flies]
Franklin, D. (2011). Human skeletal remains from a multiple burial associated with the mutiny of the VOC Retourschip Batavia, 1629 International Journal of Osteoarchaeology DOI: 10.1002/oa.1235
Katy Meyers is an anthropology PhD student who specializes in mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology at Michigan State University. She also writes regularly on bioarchaeology and mortuary archaeology news at her site www.bonesdontlie.com
Sailing the Last East Indiaman’ - Batavia by photographer Jaap Roskam.