A star-shaped fortress atop a picturesque island off the southwest coast of Ireland once housed one of the world’s biggest prison populations.
While today Spike Island welcomes boatloads of tourists — much like Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay or Robben Island off the coast of South Africa — in Victorian times it was a place that many never left, with more than 1,000 prisoners dying there in less than four years.
In an attempt to learn more about the men who perished on this prison island, bioarchaeologist Barra O’Donnabhain began excavating the convict graveyard in 2013.
Over the past five years, O’Donnabhain and his team have uncovered some of the mysteries buried on Spike Island — including a grizzly procedure long ago carried out on dead prisoners’ corpses.
By Katy Scott, 20th September 2018