Looking inside the past: CT scanning ancient textiles

Dr Susanna Harris

Micro Computed Tomography (CT) is a three-dimensional x-radiography imaging technique. It derives from medical applications to look inside bodies and object without cutting them open. This is ideal for non-destructive analysis of rare and delicate archaeological artefacts.

‘Looking Inside the Past’ gathers micro CT data for archaeological textile and metal artefacts of Britain to explore their internal structure. Exploratory scanning of modern mixed materials (silver, gold, wool and linen textiles) serves as a pilot for scanning early Medieval textile and metal artefacts. The pilot software analysis was carried out by A. Douglas for her MLitt dissertation in Material Culture and Artefact Studies at the University of Glasgow.

Future analysis will be carried out as part of the AHRC funded project ‘Unwrapping the Galloway Hoard’. (

A Major Research Grant from the Centre for Scottish and Celtic Studies funded access to the micro CT scanner Nikon XT H 225/320 LC system hosted by University of Glasgow, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, and University of Strathclyde, Civil and Environmental Engineering, operated by RA Dr Alice Macente.

Micro CT images of a modern mixed materials of gold, silver and textiles. Left: 2D slice where the sliver shows most clearly in blue, the textiles are seen faintly top right. Right: 3D volume rendering (Images © S.Harris, A. Douglas).