Uncovering History with 3D Printing


There have always been mysteries surrounding the world of history. The amount of guess work and assumptions that have to be made to try and piece our history together is often both astounding and terrifying. How often are we wrong about what we piece together? 3D printing is now being used to help clear up some of those mysteries, often to bizarre and unexpected results.

Two mysteries that have swirled in confusion lately involved and artifact referred to as the Conical Spear Butt of Navan, from the Navan Fort in Ireland. As you can probably guess from the name, it was believed to be the ‘butt’ of a spear. The second mystery is that all of the ancient horns recovered from that era are missing any form of a mouth piece, seemingly to create a musical dark age that didn’t fit in with the timeframe for these horns. This mystery was tackled by Billy Ó Foghlú who was the first to make a connection between the two ideas.


Using 3D printing, Foghlú created a replica of the Navan artifact and had it re-cast in bronze, making it nearly identical to the original piece. He then took the ancient spear butt and attached it to the base of one of the horns from the same era and began to play. Immediately the sound became much richer and clearer, seemingly proving Foghlú’s idea that the Navan artifact was the mouthpiece they had been searching for.


While it’s important to note that this discovery could have been made without the help of  3D printing, it is likely that it never would have. Crafting mold from parts can be dangerous to the part and extremely expensive, making it difficult for tests like this, which may turn into dead-ends all but impossible for the budget. It’s just another way that 3D printing is helping to inspire innovation in different industries all around the world. Ó Foghlú published his results with the Navan Research Group.


Templeton, Graham. “3D Printing Proves Ancient ‘spear Butt’ Is a Musical Instrument | ExtremeTech.” ExtremeTech.com. ExtremeTech, 08 Sept. 2015. Web. 09 Sept. 2015.

Posted in 3D Printing, 3D Technology Blog.

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