The Mary Rose sank outside Portsmouth on 19th July 1545, as she sailed out of Portsmouth harbour to meet the French fleet. Trapped by netting, or below deck, the crew stood little chance, and their bodies and belongings went to the bottom of the Solent. Excavation of the hull and its contents produced a huge and varied collection of objects, that together make up a detailed and unique picture of what life was like on board a sixteenth century warship.
‘Before the Mast: Life and Death Aboard the Mary Rose’, edited by Dr Julie Gardiner is the biggest and most ambitious of the series of volumes on the archaeology of the Mary Rose, produced by Wessex Archaeology for The Mary Rose Trust. With over 700 pages, and more than 570 illustrations (71 in colour), it is a truly magnificent achievement.
This volume covers all the objects from the ship apart from the weapons (Weapons of Warre: The Armaments of the Mary Rose by Alexzandra Hildred will be published next year). Clothing, tools, personal objects and navigation equipment are all examined in meticulous detail, together with environmental evidence of foodstuffs and other organic materials, insects, pollen and the content of ointment canisters.
The volume contains articles by a most impressive team of experts in their field and will be absolutely invaluable to scholars, students and re-enactors, as well as offering a fascinating insight into Tudor life for the more general reader.