Digital reconstruction of the Mary Rose billethead

Vaughan Powell, Peter Howell (Developer), Dominic Fontana, Martin Schaefer

Research output: Non-textual formArtefact


The digital reconstruction of the Mary Rose billethead was a collaborative project between the Mary Rose Museum and the University of Portsmouth's schools of Creative Technology and Geography.
Following the discovery and subsequent raising of the artefact from the seabed, a number of different techniques were applied to capture the details of the eroded piece of timber. The artefact was laser scanned, producing a high-detail 3D mesh of the eroded surfaces. This was combined with photogrammetry to capture fine surface detail, and oblique lighting photography; a technique in which a light is applied to the artefact at a low angle, from different directions, casting shadows that reveal surface relief and contour information.
Using all of this information, combined with artist's sketches and detailed measurements of the artefact, a 3D digital model was then created of the original billethead as it would likely have appeared when it was in position on the Mary Rose. This digital reconstruction process raised some challenging questions and required further interpretation of the artefact’s features and possible usage and position on the ship. Of particular interest, the artefact contains two narrow holes, which may have been features of the original billethead or may be results of later erosion whilst on the seabed. Thus, not only was the digital reconstruction process contributing to the understanding of the artefact in its original placement on the ship but also, contributing to the historical interpretation process itself.
The final version of the digital reconstruction has been textured making use of the most likely historically accurate colours for the Tudor Rose. To demonstrate the internal construction of the artefact for visitors to the Mary Rose Museum, versions were also produced in wireframe and translucent x-ray formats. A high-detail render of the digital model is on display in the museum alongside the artefact and also on the museum’s website.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherThe Mary Rose Trust
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'Digital reconstruction of the Mary Rose billethead'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this