What would life have been like on board a great ship like the Mary Rose?
However, the site also contained lots of wooden bowls, dishes, plates and tankards. These are extremely important finds as these kinds of everyday domestic objects were normally just thrown away rather than kept for posterity.
In the galley, down in the hold just in front of the step for the main mast, were two massive brick ovens. The crew’s food was cooked here in two large cauldrons supported on iron bars over a fire box. Smaller bronze, iron and ceramic cooking pots were also found nearby.
The excavation also found casks containing meat bones, both cattle and pig. It looks as if the animals were butchered to meet certain standards – for instance, there were no marrow bones as presumably they would have gone off more quickly than other bones.
The food remains were analysed early on in the excavation and give historians an invaluable insight into how much food was needed to run a ship like the Mary Rose.
The findings have enabled ‘experimental archaeology’, where experts recreate the cooking facilities and the type and variety of meals that might have been on the Mary Rose.
Deeply buried in the silt, wool, silk and leather survived well but sadly garments of linen have almost entirely disappeared. So the Mary Rose gives us an excellent collection of leather shoes, jerkins and knitted garments, but no undergarments as they would have been made of linen.
One particularly important find is the collection of over 500 shoes. This allows historians to understand more about the particular style of shoe being worn at a specific time.
Divers found a fine wooden backgammon set which still had some of its counters. There was also a nine men’s morris board scratched into the end of a barrel. Eleven dice made of bone were discovered in chests, which is to be expected as gaming was popular in the Tudor period.
Musical instruments were also among the artefacts found on the Mary Rose. Three tabor pipes and a tabor, or drum, were found among personal chests on the orlop deck. A musician would have played a melody on the pipe while beating the rhythm on the drum with his other hand. Fragments of two fiddles were also found on board.
The most exciting musical discovery was a still shawm, or douçaine, an early form of oboe. This is the earliest one of its kind and is unique in having an extra hole for the thumb, giving it a wider musical range than later shawms. Perhaps there was a band of musicians on board the Mary Rose, employed to provide entertainment.
Leather book covers have survived, although the paper pages have long since disappeared. Quill pens and ink pots were also found. But not everyone could read and write, which is why some objects are marked with their owner’s graffiti, a personal mark to show they own something.
Not much is known of specific individuals who drowned on the Mary Rose; only the name of Vice Admiral Sir George Carew is known.
A study of the crew’s belongings and their bones suggests they were young, strong and dressed with some comfort and elegance.