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Mary Rose sailors ate diet of salt beef and biscuits, bone analysis shows Sailors aboard Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose lived off a diet of salt beef and biscuits, analysis of bones has revealed.
7:00AM BST 05 Jun 2012Using bones from 80 sailors buried in Royal Naval hospital cemeteries, researchers were able to analyse their makeup and find out what had been on the menu. The bones came from 17th and 18th century sailors, as well as from the Mary Rose, which sunk in 1545, reports the American Journal of Phsyical Anthropology. Experts found salt beef and sea biscuits were a mainstay among those aboard the vessel and that sailors' diets changed little over the next 200 years. Mark Pollard, from Oxford university, said: "An isotopic analysis of bone collagen from the recovered skeletons allowed us to reconstruct average dietary consumption.
"By comparing these findings to primary documentary evidence we can build a more accurate picture of life in Nelson's navy."
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  • The diet included flour, oatmeal, suet, cheese, dried pork, beer and salted cod. This is consistent with contemporary documentary records in manifests and captain's logs. From bones from a cemetery in Portsouth scientists were also able to show where the sailor had servecd In the late 18th century the Royal Navy employed 70,000 seamen and marines. Feeding so many men was a huge logistical challenge requiring strictly controlled diets including flour, oatmeal, suet, cheese, dried pork, beer, salted cod and ships biscuits when at sea. "This is one of the first studies to use this technique to examine human populations in the historic period," said Pollard. "Our findings demonstrate the benefits of using forensic methods to complement documentary records."
    The Mary Rose Trust unveiled the items to mark the launch of an appeal to raise the remaining £4 million needed to build a new £35 million museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Hampshire, to house the ship's remains and artefacts.
    Other items revealed by the Trust include a giant wooden spoon used to stir a cauldron of porridge and an extremely-well preserved leather ''manbag''.
    Also being shown are musical instruments which would have been played on board, including parts of a fiddle as well as a wooden tabor pipe which is in such good condition it could still be played.
    The recorder-like instrument would have been accompanied by a drummer and a drumstick was found stored inside the pipe.
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      The wooden bowl has several marks inside it which would have been made by an illiterate sailor. Alex Hildred, curator of ordnance for the Trust, said: ''It was owned by someone on the ship who couldn't write but these were his marks and they tell the story of an individual who lived and died on board the ship.'' She said that items such as the ''manbag'' and leather shoes would have been brought onboard by the sailors as they had to provide their own clothes. She explained that the shoes had holes in the soles because they would have been worn until they fell apart. Other items unveiled include bones from a rat that failed to flee the sinking ship, a razor and mirror and linen bandages which have solidified but still smell of the medicines they were soaked in.
      Rear Admiral John Lippiett, chief executive of the Mary Rose Trust, said: ''The significance of these Tudor artefacts, many of which are being shown for the first time, cannot be underestimated. ''Nowhere else in the world is a single moment in Tudor life captured as it is with the Mary Rose. ''Once the funding for our new museum is in place, with the help of the Mary Rose 500 public appeal, the future of the Mary Rose and her contents will at last be secure.'' The current hall housing the Tudor warship at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard closed to the public last month to allow work on the project, which was awarded a £21 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant, to begin. The existing museum, which will remain open while the ship hall is rebuilt, has space to display only 6 per cent of the 19,000 artefacts recovered from the Mary Rose while the new museum would hold about 60 per cent of the items including those newly revealed.
       The Mary Rose 500 appeal, being launched to mark the 500th anniversary of the commissioning of the warship, initially aims to recruit a 500 strong ''crew'' of volunteers each tasked with raising £500. Rear Admiral Lippiett said: ''The temporary structure currently around the Mary Rose has been renovated twice but cannot be repaired anymore. ''It is time for the Mary Rose to have a properly designed, purpose-built home that brings together the ship and her wonderful artefacts which are currently located in a separate building, out of their true context. ''With the help of the new crew of the Mary Rose, who symbolise the 500 members onboard when it sank in the Solent in 1545, we are about to write the final chapter in an extraordinary story that began with her raising from the seabed in front of a worldwide television audience of 60 million in 1982.''
      Over the centuries various theories have been put forward as to why the battleship, which bristled with the latest firepower, sank like a stone while engaging the French in The Solent in July 1545, with the loss of almost 500 lives.
      Was it sunk by a French cannonball? Was it manned by a mainly Spanish mercenary crew who were impossible to control? Was it top-heavy?
      Or were the gun-ports disastrously left open before it was washed by a wave, as the latest analysis of the wreck indicates?
      Ensuring the low-lying gun-ports were closed would have been the responsibility of the bosun, whose face archaeologists believe they have now recreated.
      Near to the skull, identified as that of a man from south west England in his late 30s or early 40s, was an object called a bosun's call, a type of whistle.
      Prehistoric home
      unearthed in Scotland
      The remains of what is believed to be one of Britain's earliest homes have been uncovered during construction works. An artists impression of how the Mesolithic dwelling may have looked Photo: Transport Scotland/Headland Archaeology remove the whitespace added by escenic before end
      By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent7:40AM GMT 18 Nov 2012
       The ancient dwelling was uncovered during an archaeological excavation in a field on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A large oval pit nearly seven metres in length and studded with postholes is all that remains of the dwelling that has been dated to the Mesolithic period, around 10,252 years ago. A survey of the site was being conducted in preparation for the building of the Forth Replacement Crossing in a field in Echline, South Queensferry, just north of Edinburgh. Rod McCullagh, a senior archaeologist at Historic Scotland, said: "This discovery and, especially, the information from the laboratory analyses adds valuable information to our understanding of a small but growing list of buildings erected by Scotland's first settlers after the last glaciation, 10,000 year ago. "The radiocarbon dates that have been taken from this site show it to be the oldest of its type found in Scotland which adds to its significance." Related Articles
      The postholes are thought to have once held wooden posts that supported the walls and roof of the building. The roof itself was probably covered with turf, archaeologists believe. The remains of several fireplace hearths were also found inside the building and more than 1,000 pieces of flint, including arrowheads and other tools, were also found. Other discoveries included large quantities of charred hazelnut shells, suggesting they were an important source of food for the occupants of the house. Archaeologists believe the dwelling would have been occupied on a seasonal basis, probably during the winter months, rather than all year round. Ed Bailey, project manager for Headland Archaeology, the company that carried out the excavation works, said: "The discovery of this previously unknown and rare type of site has provided us with a unique opportunity to further develop our understanding of how early prehistoric people lived along the Forth. "Specialist analysis of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental evidence recovered in the field is ongoing. This will allow us to put the pieces together and build a detailed picture of Mesolithic lifestyle." Transport Minister Keith Brown said: "This ancient dwelling, which was unearthed as part of the routine investigations undertaken prior to construction works, is an important and exciting discovery. "We now have vital records of the findings which we will be able to share to help inform our understanding of a period in Scotland's ancient history."
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