South West Wales

Mary Rose crew were superb athletes, Swansea research shows

This skull has marks which suggests the individual survived being shot with an arrow Image copyright Swansea University
Image caption A skull from the ship has marks which suggest the individual survived being shot with an arrow

A boot, some old skeletons and a block of wood might not sound like the type of thing to entice you to Swansea.

But the objects are just some of the Mary Rose artefacts which have gone on display at Swansea University.

Researchers have been examining the artefacts from Henry VIII's warship, which was raised in 1982, to discover more about the ship's crew.

Their work has revealed that many of those who perished when the boat sank in 1545 were "superb athletes".

Sport physiologist Dr Nick Owen said the skeletons and objects raised with the Mary Rose have given them a "wealth of information".

Image copyright Swansea University
Image caption This right arm bone is bigger than the left, which indicates they belonged to an archer

"The abnormalities in some of the crew's radius bones shows that they'd have been supreme athletes," Dr Owen said.

"Today an Olympic bow has 48 lbs of tension, but to fire a Mary Rose bolt (arrow) would have taken well over 100 lbs."

Dr Owen believes that as well as providing a glimpse into the past, his team's discoveries can offer an insight into the injuries of modern athletes.

"You can see similar abnormalities in elite tennis and squash players," he said.

"Top sportsmen are singled out for elite training from such a young age.

"The cream of archers on the Mary Rose would have been in training since they were seven years old."

Image copyright Swansea University
Image caption The project has also explored objects that belonged to the crew - such as this leather shoe

Dr Owen's team, including scientists from the University of Bradford, have already succeeded in creating an online 3D image of some of the sailors, which can be remotely studied by scientists.

The next challenge is to see what lies inside the bones.

"Once we can conduct Micro CT scans, we'll be able to see what changes being one of Henry VIII's elite archers caused internally," Dr Owen explained.

"These very fine scans will help us discover how their lifestyle and diet affected their bone structure from the inside."

The Mary Rose artefacts are on display to mark the university's research and innovation awards evening.

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