I missed the article at the time, but back in 2012, the Telegraph was reporting that forensic breakthroughs had even succeeded in identifying which of the skeletons of men drowned on Henry VIII’s sunken flagship were elite English archers.
Researchers have identified the elite archers who died alongside sailors on Henry VIII’s flagship, due to evidence of repetitive strain in their shoulders and spines.
The ship sank off Spithead in The Solent in 1545, while leading an attack on a French invasion fleet. It stayed on the seabed until it was raised in 1982 and put on public display.
Over the past two years, scientists from the University of Swansea have been working to identify almost 100 skeletons kept at the Mary Rose Museum, in Portsmouth. …
[N]ew DNA extraction technology has been developed to identify a skeletonâ€™s origin and other personal features such as eye and hair colour.
Scientists have also tested how the bows were used by archers at that time, by using real-life archers.
They have uncovered evidence of repetitive stress injuries among the bowmen, the elite soldiers of their day, which they believe came from hours of longbow practice.
Nick Owen, a sport and exercise biochemist who is leading the work, said yesterday that the developments would help uncover more about the individuals who died with their ship.
The DNA breakthrough had enabled his team to embark on more detailed profiling.
“We know plenty about the Mary Rose but much less about the people on board,â€ said Mr Owen, from the universityâ€™s college of engineering.
â€œThe archers were the elite but the longbows they used took a toll of their bodies and you can see signs of repetitive stress in the shoulders and lower spine.”
A Swedish expert is also working on facial reconstructions for the new Mary Rose Trust museum, which is due to open next year.
At the time, many archers were thought to have travelled from Wales and other areas in the south west of England and were considered the elite warriors of their day.
Previous studies have shown that they lived off a diet of salt beef and biscuits. Their diet also included flour, oatmeal, suet, cheese, dried pork, beer and salted cod.
â€œThey were 6ft 2in or 6ft 3in, and strapping individuals,â€ Mr Owen said.
â€œA longbow was 6ft 6in and made from a particular part of a yew tree to generate incredibly efficient â€˜springâ€™.
â€œIt was mega hi-tech, and it gave England and Wales military superiority. These archers were the elite athletes of their day.â€
He added to the BBC: “It took years for these Archers to train to get to a level where they could use these very heavy bows.”
Alexzandra Hildred, the curator of ordnance at the Mary Rose Trust, has said the injuries could be the result of â€œshooting heavy longbows regularlyâ€.
“Many of the skeletons recovered show evidence of repetitive stress injuries of the shoulder and lower spine,â€ she said.
“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.”