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Unusual 3D printed wrecks the next breakthrough in archaeology?

Two UK shipwrecks are the first to be recreated thanks to 3D printing. Archaeological sites located on sunken vessels at Drumbeg and Folkestone are the first locations to be seen using the new 3D printing technology. Will the British technique prove to be a breakthrough in underwater archaeology? This innovative technique of creating 3D prints
Published: August 9, 2016 - 20:12
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 13:51
Unusual 3D printed wrecks the next breakthrough in archaeology?

Two UK shipwrecks are the first to be recreated thanks to 3D printing. Archaeological sites located on sunken vessels at Drumbeg and Folkestone are the first locations to be seen using the new 3D printing technology. Will the British technique prove to be a breakthrough in underwater archaeology?

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This innovative technique of creating 3D prints allows to create extraordinary models, which are faithful replicas of wrecks lying on the seabed. The first three-dimensional copies will be the 17th or 17th century wreck sunk off Drumbeg in Sutherland and HMS Anglia, a World War I hospital ship sunk near Folkestone in 1915.

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3D printing is carried out by machines that turn a scanned image into a three-dimensional object by layering on top of each other. Wessex Archaeology has worked alongside companies from Scotland and England offering services in this area to properly survey and scan archaeological sites where wrecks are found.

The first project was the Drumbeg wreck. The vessel rests at a depth of 12 metres in Eddrachillis Bay. Characteristic elements are the three cannons and two anchors located on the wreck. In addition, the partially wooden hull of the ship survives to this day. The cannons themselves are heavily covered with sediment and overgrown with seaweed.

The remains of this vessel were discovered in 1990 by local divers Ewen Mackay and Michael Errington.

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To date, the identity of the vessel has not been established, but one possibility is the Crowned Raven, a Dutch merchant ship which, while sailing from the Baltic Sea to Portugal, sank in this area in the cold of 1690 or 1691 carrying a cargo of timber and hemp.

When objects are scanned, a technique called photogrammetry is used. It allows not only the reproduction of three-dimensional shapes, but also the colours of, for example, the hull or the cannons on it.

As for the second vessel, the wreck of HMS England, which measures 100 metres, has been studied with multibeam sonar and a magnetometer since 2012. In November 1915, the ship was transporting wounded soldiers from Cale in France to Dover in England when it ran into a mine laid by a German submarine. Over 160 lives were lost in 15 minutes.

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Archaeologist John McCarthy, who was involved in the 3D modelling of the wreck of HMS Anglia, said:

“It is a fascinating process to transform light captured in photographs and images acquired from sonar into three-dimensional objects thanks to modern 3D printers. We are extremely excited about the potential that this new technology offers. With its help, we will be able to demonstrate to a wide audience what a wreck actually looks like without having to go underwater. I hope that our work will soon result in more models that can be displayed in museums and exhibitions of all kinds.”

Looking at the results of the work of British archaeologists, it is hard not to get the impression that we are dealing with a kind of breakthrough and a completely new way of recording sunken archaeological sites. Let’s hope that this technique will develop dynamically and soon we will be able to admire our Baltic wrecks in 3D.

Source: bbc.com

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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