LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Curators of King Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose, a Tudor time capsule likened to a British Pompeii, have revealed thousands of artefacts never before seen by the public, including a nit comb complete with nits from 1545 when the vessel sank.
The fabled warship went down in the Solent off England’s southern coast during an engagement with the French fleet, with the loss of more than 400 crew.
The sinking is thought to have been an accident, but exactly what happened has vexed historians for years.
The vessel was spectacularly raised from its watery grave in front of a global audience of some 60 million in 1982.
What remains of the hull has been on display behind glass ever since, but the thousands of personal items found in the wreckage have been hidden from public view due to lack of a suitable space to show them.
The artefacts include a well preserved leather “manbag” complete with compact mirror and cut-throat razor — the height of Tudor fashion, a giant 4 foot long wooden spoon used to stir the crew’s porridge pot and 70 nit combs, some even holding dead nits.
The Mary Rose Trust displayed the items to reporters to launch a cash appeal for a 35 million pound ($55 million) hi-tech museum, scheduled to open in 2012, in which all the objects will be on show.
“Nowhere else in the world is a single moment in Tudor life captured as it is with the Mary Rose,” said Rear Admiral John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust.
Also recovered was a violin and its bow — which the trust says is Europe’s oldest example — along with blood-letting bowls, canon balls and Tudor tankards.
“It gives us window into a period in time where we have very little organic survival but here we have wonderful very personal mundane objects that would have been thrown out,” curator Alexandra Hildred told the BBC.
“We’ve even got rat bones from the rats that didn’t leave the sinking ship,” she said.
The new museum will house all of the 19,000 Mary Rose artefacts. Its designers say it will resemble a finely crafted wooden jewelry box, clad in timber planks invoking the original ship.
In June, the Trust secured 21 million pounds from Britain’s Heritage Lottery Fund which distributes money to good causes from lottery takings.
The public appeal aims to recruit a 500 strong “new crew” for Henry VII’s favorite ship, with each new member pledging to raise 500 pounds toward reaching the appeal’s goal of 1 million pounds.
Editing by Steve Addison