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Pirates of the Carolinas

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Audiences eager to see Capt. Jack Sparrow return to the big screen next month in Pirates of the Caribbean IV should check out a new discovery left behind by the real-life pirate of all pirates: Blackbeard.

Earlier this year, archaeologists found an 18th-century gilded sword hilt they believe belonged to the infamous pirate. The artifact was discovered in pieces amid the shipwreck of his flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge, which sank in 1718 off Beaufort, North Carolina.

Scientists who reassembled the French-styled sword hilt and pommel believe no other crewmember than the pirate captain himself would have been carrying such a highly ornamental sword.

Although evidence suggests the sword hilt belonged to Blackbeard, the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, which has been investigating the shipwreck since 1997, has not officially identified it as his. One question is why Blackbeard’s crew did not go back for what was clearly a valuable relic from one of the nation’s most feared and hunted men, since the shipwreck stood above water for more than a year. “The pirates would have had ample opportunity to take anything that they thought valuable,” archaeologist David Moore told National Geographic.

Still, according to Dutch arms historian Jan Piet Puype, the hilt came from a sword that was relatively short and carried by a gentleman with some status. Wendy Welsh, conservator of the artifact, speculates the sword hilt may have been left because the pirates thought it lost, or the wreck may have become inaccessible.