Mar 4, 2016 | By Benedict

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh have 3D scanned a section of skull discovered centuries ago in Culloden, near Inverness, Scotland. Experts believe the skull to be that of a slain fighter participating in the 1746 Battle of Culloden.

The year is 1746: Jacobite forces are seeking to defeat loyalist troops and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne. In a final throw of the dice, the largely Catholic Jacobite forces stage a pitched battle at Culloden against the loyalists. The Jacobites, led by Charles Edward Stewart, are resoundingly defeated by the loyalists, themselves commanded by William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, leaving a battlefield strewn with around 2,000 casualties.

In later years, the battlefield was scoured for remains, and a damaged skull fragment found its way into the hands of Scottish surgeon Sir Charles Bell. In 1825, Bell sold the skull fragment and over 3,000 other items to the The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Although Jacobite casualties heavily outweighed loyalist losses, it is not known which side this particular combatant was fighting for.

"We cannot say whether the skull fragment belongs to a Jacobite or one of the government troops, but the injury to the top of the head could be interpreted in a number of different ways,” said Derek Alexander, head of archaeological services at NTS. “It could be from someone, head down, looking at the ground as they charge forward, or an individual who has already been wounded and is on their hands and knees or indeed it could be someone hit while focusing on reloading their musket."

The skull section, which archaeologists believe shows signs of a fatal injury caused by a musket ball, has now been 3D scanned and digitally recreated as a 3D model. The digital replica of the fragment can therefore now be examined by archaeologists and scientists, without them having to move the physical skull from the premises of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh’s Hall Museums.

To 3D scan and digitally model the skull fragment, the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and NTS used photogrammetry, taking a series of overlapping photographs of the remains before splicing them together into a complete 3D model. "Photogrammetry is a great tool for us, especially because it is low cost and doesn't require any fancy equipment aside from a decent camera and the processing software,” said Stefan Sagrott, archaeology data officer for NTS.

"We are using it to record a whole range of cultural heritage sites, monuments and artifacts, and we are getting some really outstanding results,” Sagrott continued. “By using it to record cultural heritage, it allows us to open up the past to even more people than ever before. We can take an object which would be too fragile for anyone to handle, photograph it, 3D model it and then make it available online for anyone to see, wherever they are.

"Another brilliant result of this is that we can also 3D print the models, creating accurate replicas of objects such as the Culloden skull, and they can then be displayed at a property and handled without any worry of damaging the original object.”

Rohan Almond, assistant curator at Surgeons' Hall Museums, praised the “exciting project”, and expressed hope that the 3D model will ignite further interest in The Battle of Culloden: "By working together and using such technology, we are going to be able to engage even more people in the story of one of Scotland's pivotal battles,” he said.

April 16, 2016 will mark the 270th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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