Famed Explorer Is Found Among Thousands of Skeletons

Researchers weren't sure they'd be able to definitively find Captain Matthew Flinders
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2019 10:21 AM CST
Man Who Named Australia Is Found Buried in London
An image taken on Jan. 18, 2019 and issued by HS2 showing the lead plate placed on top of the coffin of Captain Matthew Flinders at the archaeological excavation and research works at St James' Gardens in Euston, London.   (James O. Jenkins/HS2 via AP)

The remains of the explorer who gave Australia its name have been found during an excavation of a London burial ground, officials announced Thursday. That Captain Matthew Flinders was buried there was known. The BBC reports what was unclear was whether archaeologists would be able to determine which of the tens of thousands of skeletons resting in St. James' burial ground was his; the AP reports at least 40,000 of them will be exhumed and reburied elsewhere in preparation for the construction of a new rail line. Flinders, who led the first circumnavigation of Australia, was interred there in 1814. But the headstone that stood above his grave was removed in the 1840s when the Euston rail station was expanded into parts of the burial ground, so his exact location had been lost to history.

Archaeologists discovered that a key marker remained: a lead plate atop his coffin. "We were very lucky that Captain Flinders had a breastplate made of lead," rather than tin, says the heritage director at HS2, which is building the new High Speed 2 rail line. The Washington Post reports the latter material would have corroded and likely not been legible. She said the skeleton will now be studied, with researchers seeking to learn more about how a life lived at sea affected Flinders, who circled Australia over a two-year period ending in 1803, verifying that it was a continent. He wasn't the only luminary buried at St. James: among the notables is James Christie, the man who in the 18th century founded the auction house that has his name. (More discoveries stories.)

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