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Ship shapes project reconstructs Dutch retour ships

The Batavia wreck in the Western Australian Museum

Maritime archaeologists at Flinders University in South Australia are using high quality 3d printers, Computed Tomography and laser scanners to reconstruct Dutch return ships.

Flinders University in Australia started a new project called the 'Ship Shapes' project that focusses on reconstructing Dutch East India return ships by 3d printing, laser and Computed Tomography scanning. The university is trying to capture fine details that are based off actual scale models that date back from the 17th and 18th century. These models could potentially give more information about some of the most famous Dutch shipwrecks like Batavia or Zeewijk.

Associate Professor Van Duivenvoorde said:

''The models are also fascinating in their own right as objects of art and incredible craftsmanship, originating from the same artistic period that gave us Rembrandt and Vermeer. Each one was built for different reasons and has its own story to tell.”

After all the data of the ships are gathered, it will be used to create 3d printed models, reconstructions, animations and potentially an immersive virtual reality experience. The goal is to get a better understanding on what defines a Dutch East Indiaman as a ship type and what kind of variation there was to this design.

The Ship Shapes project team will work with the Maritime Programme of the RCE who are undertaking a wide variety of projects on closely-related archaeological sites around the world. Information will be shared with RCE and vice versa. A meeting has already been held in Leiden and collaboration will continue to try to achieve the best understanding of these ships possible, using cutting edge techniques.