The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ted Nugent, see your occupational therapist

So we have to go back a bit on this one, back to the sixteenth century when one of Henry the Eighth's warships, the Mary Rose, sank during a fight with the French. Now we go ahead a ways, up to the twentieth century, when the wreck was found and recovery began. Today, work on the ship, its artifacts, and the numerous human remains it contained continues, under the aegis of the Mary Rose Trust.

One of the things they're doing is comparative osteology, I guess you'd say, or perhaps postmortem occupational therapy, looking at what kinds of bone problems the crew and soldiers of the ship had. (In this era, naval fights were still at least partly a sort of land-war-at-sea affair, with much of the fighting being done between foot soldiers of one kind or another, carried aboard the ships. Naval fights with cannon were just getting figured out.) And one of the principal finds is that a number of the lads had "repetitive stress injuries of the shoulder and lower spine." While that might come from hauling on ropes in the course of sailing the ship, the researchers think that it's actually evidence of being one of the famed English (actually Welsh) longbowmen, and that the injuries are from pulling the bows.

That would not have occurred to me, frankly, but it makes sense. Henry VIII was one of several English monarchs who issued commands about staying current with your archery practice, the longbow being England's only real ace in the hole, versus other countries' larger populations; greater national income (meaning they could hire more Swiss and German mercenaries, some of whom came equipped with the arquebuss, an early handgun;) bigger and even more criminally insane aristocracy (meaning they had larger contingents of heavy cavalry;) and greater expertise with the crossbow (a cheaper and more deadly weapon, easier to learn, but much shorter in range. And the Church periodically tried to ban 'em, except for use against Muslims and other heretics.) So I can imagine that if you found a cluster of skeletons from this period, obviously from an English ship and obviously there for military reasons, some of 'em might show the results of a life of pulling the bow.

The best part of all this is that the Mary Rose still exists; it was raised, preserved, restored, and is in Portsmouth Historic Dockyards. Anyway, read the specific article here, and a really quite complete entry on the Mary Rose at Wikipedia, here. With any luck, someday soon we'll be able to see if Ted Nugent's skeleton exhibits any of these symptoms.

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