Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday 7 September 2023

Reconstructing a crew member from the ‘Vasa’

As a boy I was fascinated by the recovery of the ‘Vasa’ from Stockholm harbour in 1961 and my mother bought me the translation of the book which was written about the ship and its contents. 

At the time such a recovery of a seventeenth century ship was exceptional. Since then we have seen many other historic vessels from the  fifteenth century onwards being identified and excavated in the Baltic, including the ‘Gribshunden’ from 1495, as well, of course, as the recovery of the ‘Mary Rose’ from 1545 and the Newport Ship from (probably) 1470 here in the UK, and the discoveries from the thirteenth century Poole ‘Mortar Ship’ and from ‘HMS Gloucester’ from 1682. Our knowledge of maritime vessels and life has expanded enormously and enriched our understanding of life at sea, and indeed on land, in past centuries.

Wikipedia has a quite detailed article on the ‘Vasa’ which can be seen at Vasa (ship)

Work continues on interpretation of the archaeological finds and of the human remains of the thirty or so crew members who drowned when the ship heeled over on August 10th 1628 and sank in front of King Gustavus Adolphus and much of the population of Stockholm.

A recent project has been the study of what turned out to be the skeleton of a woman on the ship. The wives of seamen sometimes accompanied them on peacetime voyages. This research work was reported upon earlier this year by phys.org at One of sunken warship Vasa's crewmen was a woman and by apnews.com at DNA: Woman was on famed 17th century Swedish warship

A facial reconstruction of the woman and her appearance and possible clothing has now been done. This is set out with illustrations in an article from the Smithsonian Magazine which can be seen at See the Face of a Woman Who Died in a Shipwreck in 1628

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