A Pirate’s Life

Pirates knew that if they were caught in the act, they would be hanged swiftly and without mercy. They also knew that politicians regularly issued pardons to encourage pirates to end their thievery and keep the sea lanes open. Neither the threat of swift justice nor the prospect of a pardon had much impact. Pirates tended to live hard and for the moment.

Gold dust

Only a small amount of gold dust has been recovered from the wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Why hasn’t more pirate booty been found?

Blackbeard deliberately grounded the ship. He abandoned it and sailed off with a few of his crew, probably so there would be fewer and thus larger shares to distribute among his men. This strategy gave Blackbeard time to take the most valuable things as he left the ship.

Tobacco pipe fragment

Before cigarettes, many people smoked tobacco in ceramic pipes with small bowls. The few examples found aboard Queen Anne’s Revenge were made in England.

Animal bones

Pirates needed provisions, just like any ship’s crew. Dozens of animal bones have been found—mostly leg and rib bones from young pigs. These were probably from living animals, kept aboard until they were needed for food. A few butchered cow bones also were recovered—even a pirate’s diet had some variety.

Pewter charger [or] plate

This pewter charger, or large platter, was placed under a dinner plate at formal meals. It was much too fancy for pirates’ meals aboard ship, indicating that it was plundered from a captured ship. It is one of several found aboard the wreck, along with other expensive pewter tableware.


A cook fire aboard the Revenge is the likely source of this charcoal. Aboard ships, cooking fires were carefully contained in bricked cook stoves to prevent fires from spreading.

Tile for cook stove

Tiles or bricks were commonly placed beneath or around a ship’s stove to prevent fire from spreading to the wooden timbers nearby. This thick, heavy tile probably served this purpose, since it was found in the vicinity of the Revenge’s galley.