Scientists hoping to recreate skeletons from Mary Rose

Scientists hoping to recreate skeletons from Mary Rose
The Mary Rose as depicted in the Anthony Roll. Pic: Gerry Bye.

Scientists are to examine human remains from the Tudor warship Mary Rose with the hope of creating accurate skeletons of some of the crew.

Dr Garry Scarlett, a DNA expert at the University of Portsmouth in England, will examine the bones from crew members to establish if any of them come from the same person.

Remains of about a third of the 500-strong crew of Henry VIII's flagship, which was sunk in the Solent in 1545, have been found with the rest, apart from the handful of survivors, lost at sea.

Many of the remains which were found were discovered in groups, making it difficult to identify individuals by physical observation alone - although it has been possible to partially reconstruct 92 skeletons by a physical study of the bones.

Dr Scarlett said he hoped the research could lead to identifying where some of the crew originated.

He said: "It's wonderful that science can help find new ways to engage people in the life of the ship, its fateful battle and in history.

"I hope, once we have determined for certain which bones belong with which, some whole skeletons might be able to be reassembled."

Maritime archaeologist Alex Hildred, from the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, England, said: "The ability to recreate individuals from bones from DNA analysis rather than having to rely on physical matching has huge benefits; unless key parts of the skeleton of an individual are present, it is difficult to associate a skull with a body, or an upper body with a lower body.

"Only about a third of our 92 partially reconstructed skeletons have skulls, yet we have 179 skulls.

"This technique should enable us to recreate the faces of many more of our crew. Enlarging the number of re-constructed skeletons means we can tell more about them - height, age, provenance, wounds they sustained, diseases they may have had.

"Our museum is dedicated to the men of the Mary Rose, and these techniques inform us about them.

"Displayed alongside their possessions, the collection is seen within the lives of these men, within the context of the ship which was their home, workplace and sepulchre."

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