Will mystery of the Mary Rose and her 300 victims finally be solved by castle in the sand?


    Many of the 19,000 objects found – in what has been described as a “Tudor time capsule”, beautifully preserved in the thick muddy silt – can be seen at the museum, including cannons, tankards, plates, gold coins, wooden, bows and arrows and carpentry tools from a time which still fascinates the public.

    The museum will soon have an added attraction. A 4D “cinema” is being installed in one gallery, which is aimed at giving visitors ao an immersive experience of what it was like to dive on the wreck. To add to the experience there will also be puffs of wind and chairs will move.

    “It will make you feel as though you are diving on the Mary Rose site,” Dr Hildred promises.

    “The Mary Rose is very much a story of endeavour and synchronicity. Even now, 40 years after the raising, underwater excavation has not been equalled in scale, nor the recovery in its complexity.”

    And there are still plenty of new chapters to be written before the story is fully told.

    300 remains from all corners of the earth

    DNA analysis of skeletal remains found in the wreck of the Mary Rose has enabled experts to create faces of some of the crew and show where they were from – revealing the Tudor navy as a melting pot of nationalities.

    The remains of an Archer Royal found with a longbow and a wristguard bearing the badges of Henry VIII and his first wife Katherine of Aragon indicate he was born in North Africa. Aged in his early 20s with strong legs, one of the fingers of his right hand has grooves on the inside, which could indicate the repeated pulling of a longbow string.

    In an area where cannons were positioned, a man was found with a silver whistle, suggesting he might have been the boatswain. In his wooden chest, where crews kept their personal belongings, there were three pairs of shoes, a knitted hat, a pewter flask and a leather-bound book. He is thought to have come from southern or western England.

    On a lower desk next to carpentry tools was found the remains of a man who may have come from Spain. He was strong and muscular but suffered arthritis in his ribs and spine. Nearby were the remains of a man believed to have been the purser as he had newly minted gold coins in a chest. He had deformed hips and pelvis, which meant he may not have been able to stand up straight.

    The full skeleton of a dog, a cross between a whippet and a terrier, was found and has been named Hatch.

    Remains of a man found in the centre of the vessel suggest he may have come from Venice. Aged between 18 and 30, he could have been a gunner as he was found near a gun which was being reloaded. “We have up to 300 remains of individuals and they are kept in controlled conditions in the dockyard,” says wreck curator Dr Alexzandra Hildred. “Four of the eight we have closely examined came from outside of England. Portsmouth now is a melting pot, so why should it have been any different then.

    Mary Rose: Her Story, Their Story, Our Story by Dr Alexzandra Hildred is available via maryrose.org priced £25.

    Yet, despite her enduring majesty, the Mary Rose is strangely incomplete without a discernible stern or bow to complete her risen form. What remains in their absence, however, is the mystery of why she sank. Now the answer to both could be within reach.

    Experts believe locating and retrieving her sunken forecastle – the forward part of her superstructure – would be as momentous as the wreck’s original discovery.


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