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The use of laser spectroscopy to investigate bone disease in King Henry VIII's sailors

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  • Jemma Kerns
  • Kevin Buckley
  • Anthony Parker
  • Helen Birch
  • Pavel Matousek
  • Alex Hildred
  • Allen Goodship
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>01/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Archaeological Science
Number of pages5
Pages (from-to)516-520
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/11/14
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The Mary Rose was King Henry VIII's flagship before it sank in battle on the 19th July 1545. Over four hundred men went down with the ship and the environment of the Solent meant their remains were quickly covered in silt. Between 1979 and 1982 the remains of 179 individuals were recovered and examined as part of the excavation of the Mary Rose. The anaerobic environment created by the silt
preserved the sailors' bones in remarkable condition and to date much has been learnt about life on the ship. In this study we used Raman spectroscopy (a non-destructive technique), to investigate the chemistry of the human bones, specifically for the identification of disease in archaeological specimens, for the first time. Raman data were collected from five anatomically normal tibiae and five tibiae that were bowed (individuals suspected to have suffered from bone disease in childhood). The data were processed using multivariate analysis (principal component analysis) and results showed the presence of chemical abnormalities in the bowed bones which resulted in the separation of the bones into two clearly defined groups, normal and bowed.

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This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).