Researchers are expected to uncover enigmatic so-called “witches’ eyes” in an innovative 3D experiment from a cave in the English countryside.
The unusual marks were discovered hidden in a cave in Creswell Crags, a limestone gorge at the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire counties in England. The marks of the witches, also known as apotropaic marks, are symbols of ritual protection carved to protect against the witchcraft.
The Creswell Crags Museum and Heritage Center worked with Sheffield Hallam University of the United Kingdom to produce a 3D animated representation of the cave containing the marks of the witches.
“It is thought to be the largest collection of these marks within the U.K. but they are largely found in a cavern which is unsafe for the public to enter,” explained Sheffield Hallam University in a statement.
The experts used laser technology and animation from LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to create a 3D representation of the cave. A preview of the results of the scanning has been posted to Vimeo.
“The witch mark cave has given me an excellent opportunity to utilize these technologies to create this interactive 3D copy of the cave,” said Jeremy Lee, principal lecturer in Sheffield Hallam University’s Department of Media Arts and Communications, in the statement. “This will render the caves accessible to a broad and distanced audience, whilst enabling a detailed viewing and analysis of the marks inside.”
“We may never know what the makers of these marks were seeking protection from or the fear they experienced but the marks are extremely numerous and the concentration in this chamber suggests that this was a significant place,” said Paul Baker, the director of Creswell Crags, in a statement.
In 2016, Historic England, a government-sponsored organization whose aim is to preserve the historic buildings and monuments of the country, asked members of the English public to hunt for “witches’ marks.”
According to Historic England, the marks have been found in buildings like medieval churches, houses, barns and even the Tower of London.
The most popular form of apotropaic symbol is the daisy wheel, or hexafoil, sometimes a “flower” with six petals drawn with a pair with compasses. “Daisy wheels comprise a single, endless line which supposedly confused and entrapped evil spirits,” the group clarified.
Some popular apotropic markings are pentangles, or five-pointed triangles, the letters AM (for Ave Maria), M (for Mary) and VV (for Virgin of Virgins). It was thought that the letters beseeched the Virgin Mary ‘s protection, say historians.
Apotropic marks were found in medieval houses from around 1550 until 1750. They were registered, for example, at Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon – Avon, as well as in medieval barns where they were etched to the ancient timber for crop defense.
A large number of apotropaic marks were discovered at Queen ‘s House in the Tower of London in the 16th century in 2015.
Two years later, researchers in Scotland used 3D printing to recreate the features of an 18th-century “witch.” According to the University of Dundee, which collaborated on the restoration project, Lilias Adie, from the town of Torryburn in Eastern Scotland, died in jail in 1704 after she had “confessed” to be a witch and had intercourse with the devil.
On 31 Aug. 2019, which marked the 315th anniversary of Adie’s passing, local Fife Council authorities in Scotland placed a wreath at her grave place and started a search to trace her remains.