Monday, November 17, 2008

Mary Rose and the Woolly Rhino

Although they may appear to share nothing in common, other than appearing on the BBC News, today's stories about Henry VIII's stalwart warship, the Mary Rose, and the ancient woolly rhino do both inhabit that niche of history captured by imagination and legend. In a very modern reading, it has been determined that the great warship's demise was "spun" by the monarchically-influenced news pathways of its day from a rather demoralizing end to something more palatable (if, indeed, the "Navy's supremacy" was more fully assured by its harboring of "an incompetent crew" rather than its destruction by the French):

Henry VIII's flagship Mary Rose was sunk by a French cannonball and this was covered up by political spin, according to a new academic study.

Until now it was believed a combination of wind and tide pressed Mary Rose over, causing her gun ports to flood in a 16th Century battle in the Solent.

But University of Portsmouth geographer Dominic Fontana said the truth was withheld to maintain the Navy's image.

Mary Rose sank with the loss of more than 400 lives on 19 July 1545.

By claiming the ship was toppled by wind and an incompetent crew, the Navy's supremacy was maintained, Henry VIII's pride remained intact and the French were unable to claim victory, said Dr Fontana.

Dr Fontana's research will be featured in What Really Sunk the Mary Rose on The History Channel on 24 November.

It just shows that today's spin may become tomorrow's "what really happened" tell-all.

Today's story of the woolly rhino discloses the amazing fact that

The 460,000-year-old skull of a woolly rhino, reconstructed from 53 fragments, is the oldest example of these mighty, ice age beasts ever found in Europe.

In addition, the wonder of this find is that the fragments, uncovered in Germany in 1900, survived not only the natural and man-made forces standing against them but the catastrophic 20th-century wars, to be reconstructed now. Surely, this ancient giant resides in our imagined menagerie of legendary creatures!

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