Skeletons and human remains
Although we only have remains of around 45% of the entire crew, the collection of skeletons and human remains is an incredible resource that can tell us a lot about life in Tudor times.
The fact that the crew all died at once makes the human remains found at the wreck of the Mary Rose extremely important for research. This really is a cross section of a community at one moment in time, so we can study an entire population at once, looking at the age range, the health and their professions.
The skeletons also give us an unparalleled insight into the state of people’s teeth in Tudor times. Scientists have even found seeds in people’s teeth indicating what food they had eaten.
The bones of a total of 179 individuals were found during the excavations of the Mary Rose, including 92 fairly complete skeletons. Analysis has shown that all were male, and most of them were young adults. Some were in fact no more than 13 years old, and up to 80% were under 30.
The skeletons point to the crew being of English origin, most likely from the West Country. A few skeletons indicate that some of the crew hailed from continental Europe.
Researchers are continuing to analyse the skeletons, looking at blood groupings, DNA and isotopes. Chemical analysis of the bones can show if someone had an illness, as the bone would have been affected, and broken or damaged. Bones also give an indication as to someone’s profession, or an injury they sustained. For instance, the fusing of vertebrae can indicate that someone was involved in heavy manual work, which has helped experts suggest that a group of skeletons was actually an entire gun crew. This research is regarded as invaluable to the understanding of many diseases and for the development of medicine.