'We found set of bones on beach and brought them home - then realised they were human'

Christopher Rees and his son, Dylan
Christopher Rees and his son, Dylan -Credit:Christopher Rees

A father and son found what they thought were animal bones on a Welsh beach and brought them home - before realising "in a panic" that they were actually human remains. Christopher Rees, 39, from Bridgend, and his son, Dylan, 7, were out walking their dog at Southerndown Beach - also known as Dunraven Bay - in the Vale of Glamorgan in October 2023.

The pair were on the lookout for fossils, which they had discovered in the area before. "We were looking and then I could just see part of a bone then sticking out of the ground," said Christopher, who is a carpenter. "My son dug it up and he was excited - he thought he'd found a dinosaur. He was chuffed."

The remains were near a crumbling ancient stone wall that once marked the perimeter of Dunraven Castle, which was demolished in 1963. "I could see there was more there," said Christopher. "But I thought: 'I'm not digging anymore.' I thought it was large cattle, or something." For the latest Welsh news delivered to your inbox sign up to our newsletter

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The three bones they discovered
The three bones they discovered -Credit:Christopher Rees

They took the bones - a small circular one, along with two larger ones - home. "When we got home, the first thing my wife said was: 'That looks human.'" I started panicking then," said Christopher. After doing some research, he soon realised it was likely his wife was correct. "I thought I was going to be in trouble," he said. "I thought: 'Oh my God, should I go and put them back?'"

He phoned the police, who took the remains away for analysis. They confirmed the bones were thankfully not recently buried, but ancient human remains. "[My son] likes history and going to the museum. It's not everyday you find something like that. He's been well chuffed." Get the best user experience with WalesOnline’s Premium app on Apple or Android

Police shut the Southerndown site for investigation and archaeologists also came to check out the discovery - but there was no further excavation, Christopher recalled. "Because there weren't more bones visibly sticking out of the ground, they said they weren't going to dig for any more - I found that surprising. We were a bit disappointed, because we thought we'd discovered something pretty interesting when we realised how old they were."

The area next to the crumbling ancient wall on the beach where they found the bones
The area next to the crumbling ancient wall on the beach where they found the bones -Credit:Christopher Rees

He said at the time he suspected more bones would come to the surface - and it appears his prediction was correct, as on Tuesday walkers stumbled across suspected human remains in the same area next to the ancient wall on the beach. The area has been cordoned off and is expected to remain closed for a few days, South Wales Police said. It's not yet been confirmed whether the remains are ancient, but the force said they are being sent for analysis.

These recent discoveries are not far from another beach where lots of historic human remains have been discovered. The skeletons of at least six individuals, thought to be victims of a shipwreck, were found in a cliff at Cwm Nash beach - also known as Monknash - in 2019 following an eight-day excavation by archaeologists. They were thought to date back to the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century.

Police took the bones away for analysis and confirmed they were ancient human remains
Police took the bones away for analysis and confirmed they were ancient human remains -Credit:Christopher Rees

Before that, in 2014, a beach walker stumbled upon the remains of an 800-year-old monk in Cwm Nash, with his legs protruding from a cliff. Mandy Ewington was enjoying a stroll along the seashore when she noticed two bones sticking out from the cliff face.

A human long-bone was also found at Cwm Nash in 1982, while part of a human skull was uncovered there in 1990 and three years later, excavations revealed three adults buried in an east-west line. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales lists the Cwm Nash Burial Ground as an "unofficial burial ground used by parishioners of Monknash".

A 2012 report by the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust suggested that the burials found on cliffs at Cwm Nash likely date from some time in the post-medieval period (1485-1901).