Sailors on The Mary Rose had rickets, Raman shows

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  • Published: Dec 23, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Raman / Chemometrics & Informatics
thumbnail image: Sailors on The Mary Rose had rickets, Raman shows

Some sailors who went down with The Mary Rose when it was sunk in the Solent in 1545 suffered from rickets, a new Raman spectroscopy study has shown. The work, published as an open-access article in Journal of Archaeological Science, described how bones that had been preserved in the silt for 437 years still held chemical and protein information that could be extracted.

In the first Raman study of bone disease in archaeological samples, the spectra from five bowed tibia and five normal tibia were recorded and compared, along with the spectrum of one modern tibia. Signals were observed in the chemical and collagen regions of the spectra.

Using principal components analysis, differences in the chemical regions grouped the bowed bones in one group and the normal groups in the other. The chemical differences coupled with the abnormal anatomy strongly suggest that these sailors suffered from residual childhood rickets, a disease caused by vitamin D or calcium deficiency.

The application of Raman spectroscopy to archaeological bones is valuable due to its non-invasive and non-destructive nature. It could also be applied to other bones diseases in ancient bones, such as osteoporosis and brittle bone disease.

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