As part of their History studies, Years 7 and 8 were treated to a fascinating presentation by scientists from the School of Engineering at Swansea University. Post doctoral research fellow, Dr Sarah Forbes-Robertson and PHD student Sarah Aldridge came to tell us about their work identifying the archers from the Mary Rose. Pupils were lucky enough to handle real pieces of rope and wood from the 500-year-old wreck, experience first-hand the forces associated with handling a replica bow and view a 3D video of a skull reconstruction.
A multi-disciplinary approach
Dr Forbes-Robertson and Miss Aldridge are both biologists and experts in DNA analysis and CAT scanning. They are working alongside sports scientists, CGI specialists and facial reconstruction artists to build up an accurate picture of the identity of the archers on the famous ship. We heard how the physical stress of pulling the powerful bows actually changed the bone structure of the archers and this helps to identify the skeletons that belonged to them. The scientists have also used DNA, not only to match up the bones from different bodies, but also to try and gain an understanding of what the archers looked like and even where they came from.
The artefacts prompted comments such as, “I can’t believe I’m holding something that was on a boat 500 years ago!”. There was also plenty of interest in “the amazing skull” created by the 3D printer.
Our efforts with the long bow were feeble to say the least; we were all surprised by “how hard it was to draw back the bow even a few inches”. Students also offered very insightful comments such as, “it made me realise how amazing our bodies are, that bones and muscles can change so much according to what we do with them”, and “it made me feel lucky that I live today, not back then with all the war and hardship.”
One student was clearly inspired by the science and stated she “would like to find out more about DNA and how we can use it to find out what people looked like in the past.”