A Unique Skull from a Pivotal Battle

In this blog post we take a look at a recent project working with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) on a skull from our collection. Rohan Almond, Assistant Curator, talks us through the significance of the specimen, and the amazing technology NTS are using to recreate it.

Even at this distance of time it may be seen that the ball entered in front and came out behind. This skull was found on that part of the field of Culloden, when the Highlanders, wrapping their Plaids about their left arms, and stooping low, made their attack on the King’s Troops.”

The above text is taken from the original catalogue as written by Charles Bell himself, and refers to a remarkable specimen on display in the museum. It is the skull of a Highlander killed at the Battle of Culloden, by a Hanoverian musket ball. The clearly defined entry and exit holes show just how fast the musket ball was travelling, probably fired from a range of about 45 meters.

The Battle of Culloden took place on April 16th 1746. Despite lasting for less than hour, the conflict changed the course of Scottish history as it signified the end of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s bid for the British crown and the demise of clan culture. It was also the last large scale battle to take place on British soil.

I was contacted in December by Derek Alexander, Head of Archaeological Services for National Trust for Scotland (NTS), with a view to making a 3D plastic model of the said skull to use in their 270 year commemorative exhibition at their fantastic visitor centre in April.


3D render of the Culloden Skull


Whilst it was not news to us that the skull was from Culloden, Derek excitedly informed us that it is the only known human remains ever recovered from the battlefield. Burial sites have remained undisturbed out of respect for the dead.

NTS Archaeologist Stefan Sagrott

Using just a digital SLR, NTS Archaeologist Stefan Sagrott took over 140 images of the skull from all angles. These images were then processed by a programme creating a highly detailed 3D computer model that will be reproduced with a 3D printer. NTS will then have an exact replica. We plan to print out our own copy too for handling sessions so that visitors can see this unique specimen close up, and get some sense of this short but pivotal conflict.

Pointcloud image illustrating how the render was created



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s