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Home Science King Henry VIII’s warship the Mary Rose carried crew from North Africa

King Henry VIII’s warship the Mary Rose carried crew from North Africa

mary rose

The hull of the Mary Rose

Hufton + Crow

When the Tudor warship the Mary Rose sank off the south coast of England in 1545, it might have taken a world crew with it. An evaluation of the stays of eight mariners from the vessel means that some could have come from as distant as North Africa.

The Mary Rose served King Henry VIII for 34 years, earlier than sinking throughout the Battle of the Solent towards France. The ship, together with the stays of its drowned crew, was raised from the seafloor in 1982 close to the Isle of Wight in one in every of the most complicated salvage initiatives in historical past.


Jessica Scorrer at Cardiff University, UK, and her colleagues have examined the ancestral origins and diets of eight of the ship’s crew members. Previous evaluation of those stays predicted their professions in response to the belongings they have been discovered with. They have been recognized as a prepare dinner, royal archer, archer, carpenter, officer, gentleman, purser and younger mariner.

The researchers took round 20 milligrams of enamel from the crew’s tooth and analysed the chemical isotopes it contained.

“All the isotope elements in your food and drink get deposited in your bones and your teeth during early childhood,” says Scorrer. What’s extra, the steadiness of isotopes in food and drinks can differ from area to area, so by analysing the distinctive chemical fingerprint of isotopes in a given tooth pattern, the researchers may infer the area through which a person had spent their childhood.

Their evaluation means that three of the crew could have originated from hotter, extra southerly climates than these seen in Britain – maybe someplace on the southern European coast, Iberia or North Africa. The enamel of the remaining 5 crew members had isotope values in keeping with a childhood most probably spent in western Britain.

However, one in every of the 5 introduced up in western Britain had cranial traits typical of somebody with African ancestry.

“This is the first direct evidence of a Black mariner in Henry VIII’s navy,” says Scorrer. Such a discovery would match historic texts, which recommend Black mariners did work in Tudor Britain. “There were extensive trade networks across Europe and much further afield at that time,” says Kate Britton at the University of Aberdeen, UK, who wasn’t concerned in the analysis.

When the ship was recovered, the stays of a minimum of 179 males have been discovered. Although this analysis gives perception into eight of those people, there’s nonetheless extra to find, says Scorrer.

Journal reference: Royal Society Open Science, DOI: 10.1098/rsos.202106

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