Secrets of battlefield revealed at ISIS

Tuesday 07 December 2010

Gun fragments found on the Towton battlefield

Gun fragments found on the Towton battlefield
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Researchers are using ISIS to study internationally important archaeological finds from Britain’s bloodiest battlefield.

Bronze cannon fragments and lead shot found by a metal detector enthusiast may represent the first guns ever fired on a British battlefield. The Towton Gun Fragments are the only examples of bronze cannon from this date in Britain, and are therefore of great historical importance.

Dr Evelyne Godfrey from the Open University brought the gun fragments to ISIS in order to study their chemical composition.

“These artefacts are so rare that we needed ways of analysing them non-destructively” explained Dr Godfrey.

“Neutron techniques provided us with a fantastic opportunity to look at whether the fragments came from the same or different guns. The crystal structure analysis performed at ISIS revealed that the fragments were made of two different alloys, strongly suggesting they come from two different guns.”

“The data we gathered at ISIS could also help us establish how and where the guns were made,” added Dr Godfrey.

The fragments, and the shot fired from them contain large amounts of lead, which absorbs X-rays very strongly. This meant neutron techniques were the best suited method for looking at these samples.

Dr Godfrey and the gun fragments were recently featured on the BBC programme ‘Inside Out’.

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