Castle Wall Collapse Reveals Human Remains On The Coast Of Wales — And They Could Be Centuries Old

Published April 19, 2024
Updated April 22, 2024

The remains were found by hikers along the picturesque Dunraven Bay, a popular tourist destination where TV shows like Poldark and Doctor Who have been filmed.

Glamorgan Heritage Coast

Wikimedia CommonsCliffs along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, where various human remains have been found over the years.

Near Dunraven Bay in South Wales, human remains that could be hundreds of years old were just discovered following the collapse of a castle wall. Surprisingly, this is far from the first time human bones have been found in the area.

The recent set of bones was discovered by hikers on April 9 near Dunraven Castle, a large mansion constructed in 1803 and demolished in 1963. As the BBC reported, South Wales police sent the bones off for analysis. Researchers suspect the remains could date back to shipwrecks that occurred during the 16th, 17th, or 18th centuries.

So far, only a single set of bones has been found, but if an analysis confirms they’re historic in nature, archaeologists may conduct a larger excavation at the site.

Given that numerous archaeological discoveries have been made along the coast of the Vale of Glamorgan — including shipwreck remains and prehistoric structures — it is likely that these bones are indeed the remains of shipwreck victims.

Why The Remains Of Shipwreck Victims Often Wash Up In South Wales

Paul Huckfield, project manager for Archaeology Wales, noted that the bodies of 16th, 17th, and 18th-century shipwreck victims have been washing up on the shore here for years, and will continue to surface.

“We will see more and more of these bodies discovered along the coast,” Huckfield said. While many of these bodies have been buried for centuries, coastal erosion has revealed more and more sets of remains in recent years.

And it’s not surprising that so many bodies would wash ashore. Traveling by ship was often perilous, and wrecks were common around the Welsh coast.

“The Bristol Channel was the M4 of the day, so goods were being moved along the coast, and further afield,” Huckfield said.

Of course, this isn’t the first time human remains were found in the area.

Other Human Remains Found In The Region

In 2019, Cardiff University detailed the discovery of skeletal remains belonging to at least six individuals that were revealed due to coastal erosion.

At the time, archaeologists from the university, along with the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust, teamed up with experts from Natural Resources Wales to excavate the remains, hoping to preserve them as the cliff edge continued to rapidly degrade.

Dunraven Castle Arch

Robert Cutts/FlickrAn arch at Dunraven Castle.

Huckfield led that project as well, saying at the time that it was “the largest rescue excavation undertaken in this area and demanded the collaboration of a team of experts to save these remains and to tell the stories of the individuals involved.”

The remains were buried in a curious manner, with one younger individual being buried way from the rest, while the others were laid side-by-side or perhaps together in a mass grave.

Unfortunately, the excavation was not wholly successful, and two additional graves were overtaken by erosion, leaving experts unable to examine the graves or remains.

The Mystery Behind The Newly-Found Remains

Dunraven Castle Remains

Wikimedia CommonsThe remains of Dunraven Castle.

While analysis of the newly recovered bones is still underway, other experts have chimed in with other possible theories.

In a video released by the BBC after the discovery, historian Graham Loveluck-Edwards noted that the soil in the region is especially good at preserving bones for a long time, suggesting the remains could be thousands of years old.

Loveluck-Edwards theorized that the bones could have originated from one of three sets of circumstances: prehistoric cave burials, a massacre during the first century, or the leading theory — that the remains were shipwreck victims.

“We know that not just by accident,” he said, “a lot of wrecks that occurred here were actually driven by wreckers hell-bent on collecting booty as much as possible. And a chap who lived at Dunraven Castle, a chap called Walter Vaughan, is actually believed to have been a ring leader.”

After reading about the remains found in South Wales, learn all about the Aberfan Disaster, which killed more than 100 people in Wales. Then, read about the shipwreck of the Andrea Gail and how it inspired The Perfect Storm.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Harvey, Austin. "Castle Wall Collapse Reveals Human Remains On The Coast Of Wales — And They Could Be Centuries Old.", April 19, 2024, Accessed June 21, 2024.