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  • Susan Elaine Jones

Who is the skeleton in Norwich Castle?

The skeleton in Norwich Castle Museum

He (I am assuming it is a he) is easy to overlook. Many people wander by and don't even notice him.

He is stealth itself, watching the crowds not even notice him as he sits, looking up briefly from his book, in Norwich Castle Museum, in a small linking corridor between the Natural History galleries.

It is near-impossible to get a good photo of him (apologies for that). And the photos that are out there on the web, don't say who he is. He has a small key marker saying "2", but I couldn't find an information board referring to the skeleton labelled "2". I asked a member of staff but she didn't know who he was either.

Now he looks pretty imposing. He is sat on a slight podium, and looks a good head taller than normal people (husband's head reflection in shot for sense of scale - he's 5 foot 9 (that's 1.75m in new money, or 3.83 cubits in very old money)... which made me wonder if this skeleton was special as he might be big enough to class as a giant. And at least increases the chances that he is male. (I have learnt a little from looking at skeletons and am getting better at identifying pelvis shape between sexes, but the angles are really tricky here.)

I came home and searched the Norwich Museum database for skeletons on display. Most do not have photos (oh please, invitee me over to photo your skeletons for your records). I only found one human skeleton listed as on display, and that is a Saxon Warrior, displayed in the Lynn Museum, so obviously not this fellow.

I started to wonder if he was even in the museum records. Maybe someone (the mafia?) trying to dispose of evidence, perhaps having to move a body from an area, just stuck the skeleton in an empty glass case in the museum. No one knew who did it, but no one asked if it should be there. And so it stayed.

(I added it to my list of places where I might dispose of a body in a perfect murder.)

Robert Hales, Norfolk Giant, 7 foot 8 inches tall

So I searched the whole internet. I was briefly excited to find mention of the "Norfolk Giant" Robert Hales, and "Human Figure" Robert Hale (which turns out to be a different person, who popularised data on standard human proportions). Robert Hales (unlike many other giants), all 7 foot 8 of him is peacefully buried in Great Yarmouth.

Richer, Hale, Loomis standard human proportions

The internet did not have the answer.

So I emailed the museum. The museum's email address bounced.

So I rang. I left a message. And (bless them), they rang me back. Twice.

One chap said he would ask the lone curator of the Natural History section (Dr. David Waterhouse) to get back to me. And the next day a lady rang me to say she had spoken to him, and the skeleton was:

"No one special. Just a skeleton to illustrate human anatomy for comparison with the many animal skeletons on display. In fact, it might be an amalgam of skeletons put together, possibly from historic anatomy studies. And he isn't a giant. He's about 6 foot tall."

So, the mystery is finally solved.


Though it isn't easy to piece different people's skeleton's together, and finding enough of that stature must have been tricky. I wonder if that is why he is sat down, and difficult to see, as he's a bit of a Frankenstein creation. Who was also quite tall.

Norwich Museum skeleton just like Frankenstein's monster

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