Building bridges between science, history, and archaeology
After more than thirty years in service for the English crown, the Mary Rose – a famous warship belonging to the Tudor King Henry VIII – sank during a maneuver at sea in 1545. The ship was fully equipped at the time and had over 500 sailors on board.
For many years nothing was known about life on board. How did the sailors carry out everyday tasks? Where did they originally come from and what did their lives at sea look like?
Bringing the Mary Rose back to life
The Mary Rose lay on the seabed for 430 years before being raised again in 1982. The excavation of the ship provided a unique opportunity to learn more about everyday life at sea 500 years ago. However, the researchers’ first challenge was to conserve the ship and its equipment. These are now located in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
What would life on board have been like?
Various different conservation techniques have been used to stabilize the wooden ship over the years. Microscopic evaluation helped to analyze the wood, assess the extent of degradation, and detect minerals and crystals that can destroy archaeological materials.
We spoke to Eleanor Schofield, Head of Conservation and Collections Care at the Mary Rose Trust and an honorary professor at the University of Kent, about the challenges of conserving this historical ship for future generations.
Schofield became the Conservation Manager at the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth in 2012. She is involved in overseeing the conservation of the ship’s hull and its many artifacts. Schofield conducts research into new conservation methodologies by developing preservation treatments, analyzing materials, and monitoring the stability of storage and display conditions.