Face of 16th-century English archer revealed

Researchers at Swansea University, working with a Swedish expert, have revealed how they reconstructed the face of one of Henry VIII’s elite archers, who drowned aboard the warship Mary Rose in 1545. The reconstruction of the face is based on technology and expertise ranging from 3D scanning and printing to modern forensic and artistic techniques.

mary rose archer - photo courtesy Swansea University

It reveals a man in his 20s or 30s, who stood over six feet tall. The archer may have been a captain: he was found with an ivory armguard, a silver ring, and a bag containing a pewter plate, all of which indicate he was of high status. Tests also revealed signs of repetitive stress injury, likely caused by working in a profession where one is pulling a longbow with a force of up to 90 kilograms.

The team at Swansea University’s College of Engineering analysed several skulls from the Mary Rose. They produced an exact 3D copy of one of them. Swedish expert Oscar Nilsson, who works with the police on reconstructing the faces of unidentified bodies, then used the copy to build up the man’s face muscle by muscle.

The work is part of a wider project involving Swansea University and the Mary Rose Trust. When the warship was raised from the Solent in 1982, 92 fairly complete skeletons of the crew were recovered. Ten skulls came to Swansea for analysis, including the skull of the man whose face has been reconstructed.

‌Nick Owen, a sport and exercise biomechanist from the A-STEM group at the College of Engineering, which has led the Swansea work on the project, said, “What’s so exciting is that we can reveal the face of a man who has been hidden from history. We wouldn’t have portraits of him, as we do for wealthy and powerful people from the past – for example we’d already seen the face of Richard III on paintings before his remains were discovered.

This is a face of an ordinary man, albeit in a crack regiment, and he hasn’t been seen for almost 500 years. Thanks to 21st century technology and expertise, we can bring him vividly back to life, and understand more about his world.”

The reconstructed face, along with many other artefacts from the Mary Rose, is on display in the new Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth.

See also The Mary Rose archers were among the elite soldiers of the 16th century, research reveals

See also Sports scientists examine the medieval archers of the Mary Rose

Source: Swansea University

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