America's largest pirate mass grave has been discovered after 300 years, with more than 100 sets of remains offering clues to the crew's exploits.

Archaeologists believe the site is the last resting place of Captain "Black Sam" Bellamy's crew, who drowned when the Whydah Gally, their ship, was wrecked at sea in 1717.

The body of Bellamy, thought to be the richest pirate ever, has not yet been accounted for but around 100 of his crew were recovered and given a land burial in Massachusetts.

Casey Sherman, leading the investigation into the Whydah, said: "We believe that we have found the largest mass burial ground in the US.

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"Over 100 pirates washed ashore on Cape Cod [after the wreck], and our team believe that we have located it [the grave site].

"It's very hallowed ground. Almost every day we're learning more about what happened 300 years ago."

The archaeologists have also uncovered the homesteads of the Cape Codders who first responded to the wreck, Sherman told the Daily Telegraph.

He explained that the pirates, who counted Indians and runaway slaves among their number, were in fact "very progressive" in the democratic way they ran their ship.

Bellamy, born in Devon, the UK, in 1689, was himself an unusual captain, attempting to avoid violence wherever possible.

In just a year, Bellamy used the Whydah to raid 54 ships along the US east coast and the Caribbean, collecting treasure equal to around US$120 million today, said Forbes Magazine.

Despite the incredible feat, "he was known as the 'Prince of Pirates' because of his gentle but stern nature and he was able to mitigate potentially violent situation", said Sherman.


The Whydah's wreck, along with its legendary treasure, was discovered off the coast of Cape Cod in 1984.

In February, Sherman's team announced they believed they had found the remains of Bellamy himself, during an excavation of the Whydah's wreck.

He is currently in the UK to meet a male descendant of Bellamy and compare his DNA to those of the remains.

"What people don't know is we're finding more human remains, including a femur, and we believe these belong to Bellamy too," Sherman said.

The Whydah team has enlisted forensic scientists from the University of New Haven in Connecticut to carry out the DNA testing.

The team are confident the tests will prove their theory.

Professor Timothy Palmbach, of New Haven, said: "The evidence that it's Bellamy's [remains] is exceedingly compelling. It was immediately next to a pistol that was proved to be Bellamy's without a shadow of a doubt."