Jun.14, 2013

When Henry VIII's favourite warship, the 'Mary Rose', sank in the Solent, the strait between the Isle of Wight and England in 1545, around 500 crew members (even the ship's dog) went down with it.

The 'Mary Rose' was raised from the deep in 1982, 92 fairly complete skeletons of the crew were recovered. Ten of these skulls were sent to Swansea University for analysis.

The remains of the Mary Rose's hull | Wikipedia

Working with Swedish facial reconstruction expert Oscar Nilsson, a team at Swansea University has revealed how they reconstructed the face of one of Henry VIII's elite archers, using 3D scanning and 3D printing and modern forensic and artistic techniques.

The team analysed these skulls from the Mary Rose and produced an exact 3D copy of one of them. Swedish expert Oscar Nilsson, who works with the police on reconstructing the faces of unidentified bodies, then used the copy to build up the man's face muscle by muscle.

Evidence shows some information on the ill-fated man's life:

  • He was an archer - his skeleton shows evidence of repetitive stress injury from pulling a longbow with a force of up to 90 kg
  • He was of high rank, possibly a captain. He was found with an ivory armguard, a silver ring, and a bag containing a pewter plate, all of which indicate he was of high status
  • He was over 6 feet tall, big for a man of the Tudor period
  • He was in his 20s or 30s

Nick Owen from the university's College of Engineering, also leader of the project, said: "Archers were the only professional soldiers of their day. So it is very likely that this is the face of one of Henry VIII's elite troops.

What's so exciting is that we can reveal the face of a man who has been hidden from history. We wouldn't have portraits of him, as we do for wealthy and powerful people from the past – for example we'd already seen the face of Richard III on paintings before his remains were discovered.

This is a face of an ordinary man, albeit in a crack regiment, and he hasn't been seen for almost 500 years. Thanks to 21st century technology and expertise, we can bring him vividly back to life, and understand more about his world."

He said the "key objective" in reconstructing the face was to produce a replica of the skull without damaging it.

First, they scanned the original skull using a 3D laser scanner, which gave them an exact three-dimensional virtual replica.

The computer image was then given to Swansea University's Astute group (a multidisciplinary technical team) to print an exact copy using a 3D printer. Printing took 48 hours altogether.

The 3D copy of the skull was then given to Oscar Nilsson.

The reconstructed face, along with many other artefacts from the Mary Rose, is now on display in the new Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth.

Watch below a short video shows police expert Oscar Nilsson building up a facial reconstruction of the man, based on the 3D copy of the skull.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Joey1058 wrote at 6/19/2013 8:17:58 PM:

Great article!

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