Human remains from Mary Rose studied

Was a company of archers aboard the ill-fated warship?

Author: Pat
21st March 2012

The bones of 92 skeletons recovered from the Mary Rose are being analysed by Swansea University.

Mary Rose was King Henry VIII’s flagship. She keeled over and sank before his eyes in the Solent in 1545.

Divers painstakingly uncovered the wreck throughout the 1970s and recovered many artifacts, including 92 fairly complete skeletons. The remaining timbers of the Mary Rose were raised in 1982.

Now sports scientists at the University of Swansea have been studying the bones brought up from the seabed.

a company of archers was aboard

Their particular interest isn’t actually in sailors, but in archers. Nick Owen, Sport and Exercise Biomechanist at Swansea University said: “This sample of human remains offers a unique opportunity to study activity related changes in human skeletons.

“It is documented that there was a company of archers aboard when the ship sank, at a time when many archers came from Wales and the South West of England.

“These archers had specialist techniques for making and using very powerful longbows. Some bows required a lifetime of training and immense strength as the archers had to pull weights up to 200lbs (about 90kg).”

Alexzandra Hildred, Curator of Ordnance at the Mary Rose Trust continued: “Many of the skeletons recovered show evidence of repetitive stress injuries of the shoulder and lower spine.

“Being able to quantify the stresses and their effect on the skeleton may enable us at last to isolate an elite group of professional archers from the ship.”

Having spent centuries underwater, the bones are fragile and prone to damage. But by using a 3D printer the team has created replicas, which will now be sent overseas for forensic reconstruction.


Image courtesy Mary Rose Trust

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