Science

Mary Rose crew might have included sailors of African heritage

Bone analysis adds to evidence that Tudor England was a melting pot of ethnic diversity

Analyses of skeletons from the Mary Rose are fleshing out the crew’s past, offering further evidence that Tudor England was a bustling scene of ethnic diversity.

Researchers say studies on the human remains recovered from the warship, which sank in the Solent during a battle with the French in 1545, have revealed at least two of the crew might have had heritage from as far afield as north Africa.

One of these is a member of the crew dubbed “Henry” – a teenager of muscular build who was thought to have been involved in keeping the ship watertight, and was found in the hold with three others. His skull had previously been flagged by experts as showing signs of African ancestry – and scientists say Henry’s genetic data adds weight to this idea.

While the nuclear DNA extracted from Henry’s teeth was far from complete, having degraded over time, researchers say they were able to analyse what remained and compare their findings with genetic information from modern populations, revealing similarities to Moroccan, Mozabite and near-eastern populations.

“He does cluster quite clearly in amongst individuals from north Africa,” said Dr Sam Robson from the University of Portsmouth, who worked on the research, adding that the analysis also ruled out that Henry was from sub-Saharan Africa.

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