Americas largest mass pirate burial ground has been discovered and it contains the remains of the crew of Captain Black Sam Bellamy, the revolutionary Robin Hood of the sea, researchers believe.
The site on the shores of Cape Cod may contain the bodies of as many as 102 men whose corpses were washed ashore after their ship, the Whydah, sank while still carrying much of the treasure that had made Bellamy the highest-earning pirate of all time.
We believe that we have found the largest mass burial ground in the US, said expedition leader Casey Sherman.Over 100 pirates washed ashore on Cape Cod, and our team believe we have located [where they were buried].
Mr Sherman said that for now the burial grounds precise location would have to remain secret, but he hoped it would eventuallybecome a public memorial site.
Its very hallowed ground, he told The Telegraph.Almost every day we are learning more about what happened 300 years ago.
It is said that when the Whydah was wrecked in a storm on 26 April1717, Bellamy, 28, had been heading for Boston, perhaps to start a revolution, perhaps to be reunited with the love of his life, Mary Hallett.
He had been forced to abandon her in 1714.
Halletts wealthy, landed father had refused to allow her to marry Bellamy, a lowly Royal Navy sailor who had been left without a job and without a shipafterthe War of the Spanish Succession had finished.
Bellamy left Boston to make his fortune.But before he did, according to some accounts, he promised Hallett he would return to her as a wealthy man although itspossible he might also have had an English wife and child waiting for him in Devon.
The Pirate Empire blog saidBellamy found a handful of men who would follow him and began his buccaneering career with little more than a pair of deep water sailing canoes.
Bellamys daring and charisma soon allowed him to rise to become a very different sort of pirate.
The captain of the sloop Bonita, captured in November 1716, testified that Bellamys pirates referred to themselves as Robin Hoods Men, as if they were a band of maritime outlaws with contempt for the wealthy scoundrels in government.
They rob the poor under the cover of law, said Bellamy, While we plunder the rich under the cover of our own courage.
He got his Black Bellamynickname by refusing to wear the powdered wigs beloved of 18th-century authority figures, instead tying his long black hair in a ponytail with a satin bow, to go with a deep-cuffed velvet coat, silver-buckled shoesand four flintlock pistols.
When one captured sailor refused to join his band of pirates, he cursed him: Damn ye, ye are a sneaking puppy, and so are all who admit to be governed by laws [that] rich men have made for their own security, for the cowardly whelps have not the courage otherwise to defend what they get by their knavery.
For all the ferocity of his rhetoric, however, some say Bellamy never killed a man who surrendered.
And in February 1717, when he captured the Whydah and made it his flagship, he is said to have invited the captured sailors to join his crew with the words: Ye miserable victims of the earth, who serve kings, princes and lords for a miserly pittance scarce big enough to keep body and soul together
They make their laws to rob thee They banquet in the fine halls of their castles and mansions and leave ye to feed on the few crumbs and the gristle they cannot eat.
To ye I say I am no slave and as a free man I have the right to make war on them as they do me. To all of ye I say, make one with me against these vultures who look on us as swine and cattle.
With tactics that also included letting his pirate crew vote on major decisions, and preferring to intimidate rather than fight ships into submission, Bellamy became far richer than his more brutal counterparts like Blackbeard.
Forbes magazine calculated that he was historys highest-earning pirate, with a career haul that would have been worth $120m (85m) today, way ahead of Blackbeard, in 10thplace with $12.5m, and $5mmore than Elizabeth Is privateer Sir Francis Drake, who came second.
The bulk of Bellamys fortune, however, was said to have been on board the Whydah when it sank in a storm off Cape Cod.
It is thought that just over 140 men and one boy were on board when the wind pushed the 300ton ship onto a sandbank.Only two men survived: the carpenter, Thomas Davis, and John Julian, the pirate crews Miskito Indian navigator.
The current investigation team think that more than 100 bodies were found washed ashore and buried by villagers then living in Freshbook, a settlement that was later abandoned.
The corpses of about 40 other pirates, including Bellamy, were lost underwater along with the treasure.
It wasnt until 1984 thatthe treasure wreck hunter Barry Clifford was able to relocate the Whydah, buried beneath 18feet of sand in just 25feet of water and only1,500feet from the shore.
The gold, silver, 17th- and 18th-century coins, and artefacts so far recovered from the wreck are reported to have been valued at more than $400m.
Mr Sherman, a bestselling author, bought the film rights to the story in December 2016 and is now working with Mr Clifford.
And last month the investigators finally discovered what they think are the remains of Bellamy himself.
A leg bone was found among underwater sand and debris, next to a pistol said by the researchers to have unique features and symbols that prove it was one of Bellamys flintlocks.
Mr Sherman has now revealed: Were finding more human remains, including a femur, and we believe these belong to Bellamy too.
He and his team hope that DNA testing will produce a match between the remains and a man who may be a descendant of the child Bellamy was alleged to have left behind in Devon.
Then, Mr Sherman said, Black Sam Bellamys bones will finally be returned home to England.