Archaeologists create 3D model of Rothwell charnel chapel

The Rothwell Charnel Chapel Project has recently completed the first phase of a project to create a digital version of the site using 3D modelling techniques. The research was supported by funding from the University of Sheffield’s Digital Humanities Exploration Fund and involved project members Lizzy Craig-Atkins (Archaeology), Steve Maddock (Computing), Rab Scott (AMRC) and Dawn Hadley (Archaeology).

A scan of the 3D image of Rothwell charnel chapel

Project context and aims

The Digital Ossuary project has integrated computer science and archaeological approaches in an investigation of the subterranean medieval charnel chapel of Holy Trinity church in Rothwell (Northamptonshire). The late 13th-century chapel houses disinterred human skeletal remains radiocarbon dated to the 13th-15th and 18th-19th centuries. While medieval charnelling was a European-wide phenomenon, evidence has largely been lost in England following the early 16th-century Reformation, and Rothwell is the most complete surviving example of a charnel chapel with in situ medieval remains. Rothwell charnel chapel is a site of major international significance, but analysis of the site is hampered by issues of access and preservation.

The project had four principal aims:

i) to develop analysis of the largely unstudied medieval charnel chapel by collecting digital records of the charnel deposit and their environment;
ii) to enhance interpretation of the manner in which the ossuary was utilised in the medieval period through digital capturing of the spatial arrangements within the chapel
iii) to present this fragile, and largely inaccessible heritage resource to the public in a sustainable manner; and
iv) to facilitate preservation of the ossuary, which is in a fragile state, in the form of digital preservation in situ

A 3D view inside Rothwell Charnel Chapel

Project outcomes

The principal research questions from a digital perspective focused on comparison of different techniques for digital recording in order to develop a methodology that would be the least labour intensive, as well as providing the best virtual representation.

We have also created a 3D virtual reality model of the space with the aim of developing digital access to the site for the wider public and research community. Versions of this model can be seen on our website but these have had to be significantly simplified for web viewing. The full model can also be downloaded in various formats from ORDA.

Get involved

We are welcoming researchers who might be interested in working with the model and invite them to download the files from ORDA and get in touch with the project team.

Contact Lizzy Craig-Atkins:

The models are available on the project website.

See a list of publications relating to the project.

Tags: archaeology, medieval, funerary, 3D model, laser scanning, digital humanities, interdisciplinary