Diversity aboard a Tudor warship: investigating the origins of the Mary Rose crew using multi-isotope analysis

Scorrer, Jessica; Faillace, Katie E.; Hildred, Alexzandra; Nederbragt, Alexandra J.; Andersen, Morten B.; Millet, Marc-Alban; Lamb, Angela L.; Madgwick, Richard. 2021 Diversity aboard a Tudor warship: investigating the origins of the Mary Rose crew using multi-isotope analysis. Royal Society Open Science, 8 (5), 202106.

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The great Tudor warship, the Mary Rose, which sank tragically in the Solent in 1545 AD, presents a rare archaeological opportunity to research individuals for whom the precise timing and nature of death are known. A long-standing question surrounds the composition of the Tudor navy and whether the crew were largely British or had more diverse origins. This study takes a multi-isotope approach, combining strontium (87Sr/86Sr), oxygen (δ18O), sulfur (δ34S), carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analysis of dental samples to reconstruct the childhood diet and origins of eight of the Mary Rose crew. Forensic ancestry estimation was also employed on a subsample. Provenancing isotope data tentatively suggests as many as three of the crew may have originated from warmer, more southerly climates than Britain. Five have isotope values indicative of childhoods spent in western Britain, one of which had cranial morphology suggestive of African ancestry. The general trend of relatively high δ15N and low δ13C values suggests a broadly comparable diet to contemporaneous British and European communities. This multi-isotope approach and the nature of the archaeological context has allowed the reconstruction of the biographies of eight Tudor individuals to a higher resolution than is usually possible.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 2054-5703
Date made live: 06 May 2021 08:39 +0 (UTC)

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