Cardiff University academics, in partnership with the Mary Rose Trust and the British Geological Survey, used cutting edge scientific techniques to reveal the ancestry, childhood origins and diets of some of the crew who perished on the ship in 1545 AD. This information has been used to explore where, in Britain and beyond, they were raised.
Data suggests as many as three of the eight crew in the study may have originated from warmer, more southerly climates than Britain, such as southern European coasts, Iberia and North Africa. Researchers say the remaining five crew members were likely to have been brought up in western Britain, with further analysis suggesting one of these men was of African ancestry.
The Mary Rose was a successful warship and served Henry VIII for 34 years. She sank during the Battle of the Solent, off the south coast of England, resulting in the deaths of the vast majority of her crew.
First author on the paper Jessica Scorrer, MSc graduate at Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, said:
“Our findings point to the important contributions that individuals of diverse backgrounds and origins made to the English navy during this period. This adds to the ever-growing body of evidence for diversity in geographic origins, ancestry and lived experiences in Tudor England.”
In 1982, 437 years after she sank, the remains of the Mary Rose and 19,000 artefacts were recovered, many thousands of which are conserved and displayed in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where they have been the subject of extensive research ever since.
For this latest study, researchers used a technique called multi-isotope analysis on teeth to investigate where the eight crew members spent their early years and what their diet was like. Chemical tracers from the food and water they consumed in childhood, which provide evidence for geographical location, remain within the teeth. This has allowed the team to explore the sources of their diets.