The story of the castaways of Plymouth discovered thanks to 3D scanning

Archaeological artifacts recovered from shipwrecks in Plymouth Sound have revealed incredible hidden gems of our town’s history.

The finds show Plymouth’s ties to empire, slavery and enlistment, and have been brought to life through 3D scanning at Fab Lab Plymouth.

This is part of a collaboration between Plymouth College of Art’s Smart Citizens programme, the local SHIPS Project archaeological team and internationally acclaimed artist and photographer Dr Mohini Chandra.

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Using 3D scanning technology from Fab Lab Plymouth, important maritime objects discovered by the SHIPS team have been digitally recorded in great detail and reproduced by 3D printing.

Items scanned include a copper shackle – an early trade token for the West African trade – recovered from a probable slave wreck in Plymouth Sound (c. 1580-1680) and a rag bolt in copper recovered from a Royal Navy ship, HMS Amethyst (1811).

Through the innovative use of digital fabrication processes, archaeological finds have been recorded for future research and their stories brought to life, creating precise 3D printed replicas that can be manipulated without damaging the original artifacts.

The SHIPS Project, an independent archaeological research group and community interest society, can now use 3D prints as an educational tool, allowing the public to physically connect with elements of Plymouth’s maritime history that were previously hidden on the seabed of Plymouth Sound.

As part of the collaboration between the Smart Citizens programme, the SHIPS project and Dr Mohini Chandra, local people were invited to join the Stray Finds event at Plymouth College of Art to view Dr. Mohini Chandra at the MIRROR, examine shipwreck and ‘treasure’ artifacts and visit the Fab Lab.

Divers and local collectors from the South West were also invited to bring their favorite finds to display and discuss with archeology experts from the SHIPS project team.

Mallory Haas, SHIPS Project Director, said: “We started the Stray Finds project so that we could see what the diving community has recovered over the past 50 years.



“The diving community is very active in Plymouth and the South West, and because sport divers hold a great deal of knowledge about wrecks and finds recovered from the coast, it is important to record this information before losing the Many of these finds are commonplace things, like Victorian bottles and bass material salvaged from metal wrecks.

“However, in the collections of many divers, there is a rare item that can be misidentified, as we have seen many times before. This is how we discovered the only Romano lead ancho core -Greek in the UK, or several Bronze Age stones, anchors, and the most amazing Roman pottery and amphorae.

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“The information these artefacts contain tell the story of early trade with Britain, these artefacts are of great significance and are essential in telling the story of Plymouth as a maritime landscape.

“By hosting events like Stray Finds Day at Plymouth College of Art, we build a relationship with the diving community and locals who are interested in history.

“By hosting the event at the College, we are broadening the reach that events like this can have beyond the diving and navy community, and involve students and scholars who are usually unaware that this type of culture exists.”

Paradise Lost explored the story of shipwrecks in the historic port city of Plymouth and reflected on the complex movement of people and objects in the settled world, with a focus on the voyages of Mohini’s ancestors aboard ships under contract.

Along with a new film featuring a specially commissioned song, “Ei Dubonto Shomoy”, written and performed by Kolkata-based archivist and composer Moushumi Bhowmik as a lament for “lost souls”, Mohini has also worked with the SHIPS project to unearth and photograph artifacts. shipwrecks in Plymouth.

This work is part of SHIPS’ latest Stray Finds project, which aims to locate and record objects recovered at sea and to make these records accessible via the SHIPS project website.

Dr Mohini Chandra, said: “SHIPS project outreach activities include working with the local diving community to study, catalog and understand artefacts from the many shipwrecks in Plymouth Sound and the South West region.

“Stray Finds events are an important part of this process, allowing divers to bring in equipment and have it assessed. The SHIPS project is then able to glean and record other important first-hand information about the artifacts and the underwater sites at which they were found.

“At this event, hosted at Plymouth College of Art, members of the general public and divers were also able to view the exhibit, view and handle items previously collected from the local marine area and speak to the archeology team .



3D wrecks
3D wrecks

They also visited the Fab Lab to examine the processes involved in mapping and 3D printing from original artifacts such as the “slave shackle” found in Plymouth Sound, which was also featured in the exhibit.

“It was a significant event, bringing together art practice, archeology and new audiences such as the diving community at Plymouth College of Art for the first time to explore different ways of interpreting artefacts; both through artistic practice and archeology as well as contemporary technology such as 3D printing, which can make artifacts more accessible to the public.

“It is important to note that the SHIPS project team found a number of unusual and unique elements in the presented material which they recorded and cataloged on the day.”

Attendees were also invited to a special tour of Fab Lab Plymouth, to learn about the process of 3D scanning and 3D printing and how these modern digital fabrication technologies can be combined with archaeological research to record, protect and reproduce artifacts. important historical artifacts.

This activity was supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which funds the Cultural Development Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England.

Mohini Chandra’s ‘Paradise Lost’ exhibition has been supported by Arts Council England, Plymouth College of Art and MIRROR.

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