Engineering - Going ballistic

19th September 2008 at 01:00
Schools are not the only educational institutions to be working on cross-curricular projects. Engineers at Glasgow University have built a fully-functioning cannon to enable battlefield archaeologists to answer unsolved questions surrounding cannonballs found at the site of the Battle of Culloden (1746).

Tests were carried out last week, using the replica cannon, which weighs half a tonne, to help archaeologists better understand the role that cannons played in the outcome of the battle.

Tony Pollard, director of the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at the university, said: "We recovered a variety of lead projectiles fired by cannons during the Battle of Culloden. These included pieces of case shot and grape shot which featured a number of markings and distortions. By using the recently-built replica cannon to test how lead projectiles react when they impact a number of different surfaces, we will be able to compare the results with the artefacts collected from the site. "These results can then tell us how the cannons were used in the battle and, depending on what they struck (human bodies, the earth or stone), how effective they were in battle."

He worked closely with Alan Birkbeck from the university's ballistics and impact group for the inter-disciplinary project.

Cannons like this were used by both Cumberland's army and the Jacobites in the opening stages of the battle. They appear to have been used to deadliest effect by the Hanoverians, who fired them into the oncoming Jacobite charge.

E a.birkbeck@mech.gla.ac.uk

E t.pollard@archaeology.gla.ac.uk.

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