Open today: 10:00am - 5:30pm

Skeletal remains of the Mary Rose

During the excavations of the Mary Rose, thousands of skeletal remains of both human and animal origin were recovered from the ship and wreck site.

These all form an important part of the Mary Rose Trust collection and provide unique insights into the men and life onboard through ongoing scientific research.

Human skeletal remains

Many lives were lost when the Mary Rose sank on 19th July 1545, with only circa 30 survivors reported out of hundreds of crew, sailors, soldiers, gunners and gentlemen.

Not all of those lost have been recovered, but archaeologists were able to excavate around 9,000 human skeletal elements in the 1970s and 1980s.

Dr Ann Stirland (1935-2021), a prominent bioarchaeologist, worked on the original post-excavation analysis of the Mary Rose remains recovered. Dr Stirland’s first report was produced in 1985 and further publications including two books followed (2000, 2005).

Dr Stirland was able to partially reconstruct 92 human skeletons, known in the collection as ‘Fairly Complete Skeletons’ (FCS) and calculated that the Minimum Number of Individuals on board – represented within the skeletal assemblage – was 179.

In 2021, following analysis of the entire human remains collection – for the first time since Dr Stirland’s study – resulted in further partial reconstructions that increased the total number of FCS to 98.

Much research has been carried out on the original 92 FCS in the past four decades, including isotope analysis revealing where some of the men grew up, aDNA analysis, biomechanical studies, pathologies, and so much more.

Research is always continuing and as methods and techniques develop there will be much more understanding about the men onboard, people’s lives in the sixteenth century, and even diseases and illnesses that still exist today.

Animal remains

Of course, there is Hatch the dog – the most complete skeleton excavated! Scientific analysis of his bones has revealed how old he was (12-18 months), breed type (most closely related to a modern-day Jack Russell terrier), and fur colour (a mixed brown).

Remains of the food eaten on board by the crew were also recovered. Cod bones from Newfoundland in Canada reveal that Henry VIII’s Navy was part of global trade supplies from across the Atlantic.

There is also evidence of salted meats being onboard, with cattle, pig and deer bones being recovered – many with visible butchery marks.

Stirland, A. (1985), The Human Burials from the Mary Rose. Report, Mary Rose Trust.

Stirland, A. (2000), Raising the dead: the skeleton crew of Henry VIII great ship, the Mary Rose. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.

Stirland, A. J. (2005), The men of the Mary Rose. Stroud: The History Press.