Saturday, September 11, 2004


Old bones reveal Cromwell sailor clues


Fri 10 September, 2004 20:29

EXETER (Reuters) - Scientists have pieced together the remains of a crewman on one of Oliver Cromwell's warships who went down with his ship off the coast of Scotland 350 years ago.

The crewman, dubbed "Seaman Swan" after the ship that sank in a storm near the Isle of Mull on September 13, 1653, was in his early 20s, had the body of a trapeze artist and probably worked on the ship's rigging.

"Like many other people of the period ... he had rickets which left him quite stunted, with severely bowed legs," Dr Colin Martin, an archaeologist at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, told a science conference.

"But for all that, he was an extremely fit and healthy man."

Scientists who found the scattered bones with the wreckage of the Swan, a small three-masted ship that was part of Cromwell's task force to attack Duart Castle in Scotland, had assumed the bones belonged to different crew members.

But Professor Sue Black of the University of Dundee discovered they all belonged to the one man. Eighty percent of the skeleton was recovered.

The remains reveal he was equally developed on both sides of his body and had powerful upper-body strength.

"We deduce from that, that he engaged in rhythmic, balanced work: hauling ropes, setting sails, doing all the kinds of things that sailors do," Martin said at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.
He also had a hip joint characteristic with jumping from a height of about six feet, as a sailor working on rigging would do.

The remains also revealed clues about the sailor's diet. He ate bread made from stone-ground flour, judging by the state of his teeth, according to Martin.

The Swan, a 100-foot long, 200 ton vessel, was among six ships sent to attack the castle and one of three that sank in a storm.

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