Pillaged: Hamburg Searching for Plundered Pirate Skull

Thieves in Hamburg have run off with some precious booty. The city's history museum has reported that the skull of legendary 14th-century pirate Klaus Störtebeker is missing and is desperate to get its stolen treasure back.

The missing skull, believed to have belonged to legendary pirate Klaus Störtebeker, and a life-size wax figure of the buccaneer at Hamburg's history museum before the theft. Zoom
dpa

The missing skull, believed to have belonged to legendary pirate Klaus Störtebeker, and a life-size wax figure of the buccaneer at Hamburg's history museum before the theft.

It was one of the prized possessions in Hamburg's history museum: a 600-year-old skull with a spike jutting out of the top. Now, though, the skull, thought to have belonged to the legendary pirate Klaus Störtebeker, has gone missing without a trace.

In a Wednesday press release, the museum announced that the skull has been AWOL since Jan. 9 and that police have been investigating the theft since then, but have had little success. The announcement was delayed at the request of investigators; the museum has offered a reward of up to several thousand euros for information leading to the skull's recovery.

"We are all very upset about the theft," museum director Lisa Kosok said in the press release. "We very much hope that it will either be returned or found."

Heads on Stakes

The skull sans mandible has been attributed to the legendary pirate Klaus Störtebeker, who was executed on an island in the Elbe River on Oct. 20, 1400 along with 30 other pirates. The cranium was found in 1878 when the city of Hamburg expanded to the island and large warehouses for the shipping industry were built -- the so-called "Speicherstadt." The site had been used as a place to execute pirates -- their heads were often displayed on stakes as a warning to other would-be buccaneers. The skull in question had been on display at the museum since 1922.

A detailed analysis of the skull found that it could very well have belonged to a pirate beheaded at the beginning of the 1400s. A 2004 effort to match up DNA from the skull with Störtebeker's descendents, however, was inconclusive.

jtw -- with wire reports

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