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Earliest known Mariner’s Astrolabe research published today to go in Guinness Book of Records

Guinness World Records have independently certified an astrolabe excavated from the wreck site of a Portuguese Armada Ship that was part of Vasco da Gama’s second voyage to India in 1502-1503 as the oldest in the world, and have separately certified a ship’s bell (dated 1498) recovered from the same wreck site also as the oldest in the world.The astrolabe. Credit: David Mearns

A gunmetal disc excavated from the wreck site of a Portuguese Armada Ship and identified as a mariner’s astrolabe – and the earliest known example - by engineers at WMG, University of Warwick is to be published in the The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology

The astrolabe was discovered by David L. Mearns of Blue Water Recoveries Ltd, who directed the three-year archaeological project in collaboration with Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Culture

It has been named the Sodré astrolabe after the commander of the ship in which it was found: Vicente Sodré was the maternal uncle of Vasco da Gama and died when his ship, the Esmeralda, wrecked on the remote Omani Island of Al Hallaniyah in 1503.

It will be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest mariner’s astrolabe from as early as 1496

The scientific process of verifying the disc as an astrolabe by laser imaging is described in a paper published today by Mearns and Jason Warnett and Mark Williams of WMG at the University of Warwick in The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.

The Sodré astrolabe which has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records is believed to have been made between 1496 and 1501 and is unique in comparison to all other mariner’s astrolabes.

Mariner’s Astrolabes were used for navigating at sea by early explorers, most notably the Portuguese and Spanish.

They are considered to be the rarest and most prized of artefacts to be found on ancient shipwrecks and only 104 examples are known to exist in the world.

They were first used at sea on a Portuguese voyage down the west coast of Africa in 1481. Thereafter, astrolabes were relied on for navigation during the most important explorations of the late 15th century, including those led by Bartolomeu Dias, Christopher Columbus and Vasco da Gama.

It is the only solid disk type astrolabe with a verifiable provenance and the only specimen decorated with a national symbol: the royal coat of arms of Portugal. GWR Astrolabe Credit: David Mearns

As the earliest verifiable mariner’s astrolabe it fills a chronological gap in the development of these iconic instruments and is believed to be a transitional instrument between the classic planispheric astrolabe and the open-wheel type astrolabe that came into use sometime before 1517.

The thin 175 mm diameter disk weighing 344 grams was analysed by a team from WMG who travelled to Muscat, Oman in November 2016 to collect laser scans of a selection of the most important artefacts recovered from the wreck site.  

Using a portable 7-axis Nikon laser scanner, capable of collecting over 50,000 points per second at an accuracy of 60 microns, a 3D virtual model of the artefact was created. Analysis of the results revealed a series of 18 scale marks spaced at uniform intervals along the limb of the disk.

Further analysis by WMG engineers showed that the spacing of the scale marks was equivalent to 5-degree intervals. This was critical evidence that allowed independent experts at Texas A&M University to include the disk in their global inventory as the earliest known mariner’s astrolabe discovered to date.

Prof Mark Williams from WMG, University of Warwick comments:

“Using this 3D scanning technology has enabled us to confirm the identity of the earliest known astrolabe, from this historians and scientists can determine more about history and how ships navigated.

Technology like this betters our understanding of how the disc would have worked back in the 15th century. Using technology normally applied within engineering projects to help shed insight into such a valuable artefact was a real privilege”

David Mearns of Blue Water Recoveries Ltd comments:

“Without the laser scanning work performed by WMG we would never have known that the scale marks, which were invisible to the naked eye, existed. Their analysis proved beyond doubt that the disk was a mariner’s astrolabe. This has allowed us to confidently place the Sodré astrolabe in its correct chronological position and propose it to be an important transitional instrument.”


Car component quality testing technology helps hip surgeons ensure prostheses bind to bones

Hip surgeons are making significant advances in designing hip replacement components using additive manufacturing (3D printing) but have been struggling to devise easy methods of testing the designs they have created without using destructive testing techniques. Now researchers in WMG at the University of Warwick have devised a way of examining and ensuring the quality of those designs without destructive testing using scanning techniques normally used to examine new component designs for high-end automotive manufacturing.Professor Mark Williams

Successful surgical reconstruction or replacement of a joint (arthroplasty) requires integration of the prosthetic implant with the bone to replace the damaged joint. Surgeons therefore seek to use Bone-mimetic biomaterials for implants as their mechanical properties and porous structure can be designed to allow bone ingrowth and help fix the implant.

Wed 05 September 2018, 15:22 | Tags: Metrology Homepage Article 4 Mark Williams Research

Dodo’s violent death revealed

The famous Oxford Dodo died after being shot, according to breakthrough research by Oxford University Museum of Natural History and WMG at the University of Warwick.

Using revolutionary forensic scanning technology and world-class expertise, researchers have discovered surprising evidence that the Oxford Dodo was shot in the neck and back of the head with a shotgun.

The significant and unexpected findings, made by Professor Paul Smith, director of the Museum of Natural History, and Professor Mark Williams from WMG at the University of Warwick, only became apparent when mysterious particles were found in the specimen during scans carried out to help analyse its anatomy.

Dodo remainsSubsequent analysis of the material and size of the particles revealed that they are lead shot pellets, typically used to hunt wildfowl during the 17th century.

The findings cast doubt on the popular theory that the Oxford Dodo is the remains of a bird kept alive in a townhouse in 17th-century London.

Fri 20 April 2018, 08:15 | Tags: Metrology Mark Williams Research

Queen’s wedding cake resurrected with scanning tech for 70th Anniversary

Queen’s wedding cake resurrected with scanning tech for 70th Anniversary Cutting-edge technology has brought Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding cake back to life in time for hers and Prince Philip’s 70th anniversary, thanks to research by WMG at the University of Warwick.

Professor Mark Williams at WMG, alongside the British Sugarcraft Guild (BSG), employed 3D scanning technology to recreate a full-sized replica of a cake presented to the royal couple on their wedding day in November 1947 – which was almost totally destroyed by vandals in 2015.

The technology was able to accurately scan the cake to within 0.1mm and reproduce a high-resolution 3D model that was then be used to digitally repair the cake.

Analysing the surviving parts of the cake – an intricate 6ft ensemble, consisting of 6 tiers – Professor Williams was able to discover exactly how it was formed, and to determine precisely how to restore its original grandeur.

There were elaborate pictorial panels on each tier of the cake, the moulds of which had been lost through the decades. However, WMG’s engineering technology recreated these images from the wedding cake, and produced new silicone moulds through 3D scanning.

Thu 16 November 2017, 11:39 | Tags: Metrology Partnerships Mark Williams Research

Oldest known marine navigation tool revealed with scanning technology

Details of the oldest known marine navigation tool, discovered in a shipwreck, have been revealed thanks to state-of-the-art scanning technology at WMG, University of Warwick.

Professor Mark WilliamsProfessor Mark Williams was tasked with scanning the artefact – an astrolabe from the late fifteenth century, used by mariners to measure the altitude of the sun during voyages – which was excavated in 2014 by Blue Water Recovery.

When the team found the object, no markings were visible – they believed it was an astrolabe, but they could not see any navigational Astrolabemarkings on it.

They then approached Professor Williams, who conducts pioneering scanning analyses in his laboratory at WMG, to reveal the artefact’s invisible details.

The scans showed etches around the edge of the object, each separated by five degrees – proving that it is an astrolabe.

These markings would have allowed mariners to measure the height of the sun above the horizon at noon to determine their location so they could find their way on the high seas.

Tue 24 October 2017, 13:26 | Tags: Metrology Mark Williams Research

World's 'first named dinosaur' reveals new teeth with scanning tech

Attached is an artist’s impression of how Victorian palaeontologists thought the Megalosaurus looked (right), compared with how we now understand it to have looked (left). Credit University of Warwick/Mark Garlick.Pioneering technology has shed fresh light on the world’s first scientifically-described dinosaur fossil – over 200 years after it was first discovered - thanks to research by WMG at the University of Warwick and the University of Oxford’s Museum of Natural History.

Professor Mark Williams at WMG has revealed five previously unseen teeth in the jawbone of the Megalosaurus – and that historical repairs on the fossil may have been less extensive than previously thought.

Thu 08 June 2017, 10:38 | Tags: Metrology Homepage Article 4 Mark Williams Research

Queen’s wedding cake resurrected with scanning tech

Sacnning Queen Elizabeth wedding cakeCutting-edge technology has brought Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding cake back to life – thanks to research by WMG at the University of Warwick.

Professor Mark Williams at WMG, alongside the British Sugarcraft Guild (BSG), employed 3D scanning technology to recreate a full-sized replica of a wedding cake presented to Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip – which was almost totally destroyed by vandals in 2015.

The technology was able to accurately scan the cake to within 0.1mm and reproduce a high-resolution 3D model that was then be used to digitally repair the cake.

 

Mon 13 February 2017, 15:15 | Tags: Metrology Mark Williams Research

WMG Professor recognised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology

Mark WilliamsProfessor Mark Williams has been awarded an IET Achievement Medal for his outstanding work in Forensic Engineering.

The IET Achievement Medals are awarded to individuals, such as Professor Williams, who have made major and distinguished contributions in the various sectors of science, engineering and technology.

Dr Ian Nussey OBE, from the IET Awards and Prizes Committee explains: “Professor Mark Williams criminal forensics engineering is helping to shape the criminal justice system. It has established the truth where prosecution has not been pursued, provided pivotal evidence at a number of high profile murder trials and helped victims' families and vulnerable people.

 

Mon 17 October 2016, 13:49 | Tags: Metrology Mark Williams Research

Sophisticated engineering scanning tech helps archaeologists identify rare ‘ghost coin’

IndioSophisticated CT scanning technology normally used by researchers from WMG at the University of Warwick to assist high tech manufacturing, has helped uncover the existence of a rare silver coin called an ‘Indio’ discovered by archaeologists investigating a shipwreck off the coast of Oman.

Over 2,800 artefacts were found in the wreck, including a bronze bell with an inscription dating back to 1498, gold coins from the era and an important bronze disc embossed with the "esfera armilar" — a personal emblem of Dom Manuel I, the then-king of Portugal.

Fri 15 April 2016, 10:19 | Tags: Metrology Mark Williams Research

WMG Academy Young Engineers Are Given The Tools To Succeed

measuringmachineThe WMG Academy for Young Engineers in Coventry has received a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) on loan from WMG, at the University of Warwick. The machine will assist students with verification and measurement when producing parts, ensuring they are trained in the most efficient industrial processes and with the same equipment used by world leading manufacturing companies.

Wed 22 July 2015, 11:21 | Tags: Metrology WMG Academy Education

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