Subsurface fracturing of sedimentary stones caused by bullet impacts

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Oliver Campbell , Tom Blenkinsop , Lisa Mol , Oscar Gilbert 


The immovable nature of built heritage means that it is particularly vulnerable during times of armed conflict. Although impacts from small arms and shrapnel leave relatively inconspicuous impact scars, they may elevate the risk of future stone deterioration. This study investigates the subsurface damage caused by bullet impacts, which is not apparent from surface inspection, in order to better understand the geometry and mechanics of this form of conflict damage to heritage. Controlled firearm experiments were conducted to simulate conflict damage to sandstone and limestone buildings. The bullet impacts created conical fractures or zones of increased fracture intensity below the impact, radial fractures and spallation, in addition to a crater. Dynamic fracture distinguishes the formation of these features from quasi static cone crack experiments, while the lack of a shockwave differentiates these bullet impacts from hypervelocity experiments. Damage was created by momentum transfer from the bullet, so that differences in target properties had large effects on the nature of the damage. The crater in the limestone target was almost an order of magnitude deeper than the sandstone crater, and large open fractures formed in the limestone below the crater floor, compared with zones of increased fracture intensity in the sandstone target. Microstructural analysis of subsurface damage showed that fracture intensity decreased with increasing distance from the impact centre, suggesting that regions proximal to the impact are at increased risk of future deterioration. Conical subsurface fractures dipping away from the impact beneath multiple impact craters could link up, creating a continuous fracture network. By providing pathways for moisture and other weathering agents, fractures enlarge the region at increased risk of deterioration. Their lack of surface expression makes understanding their formation a vital part of future surveying and post conflict assessments.



Earth Sciences


subsurface fracturing, bullet impact, heritage, Conflict, fracture intensity, Microstructures


Published: 2022-12-04 07:35

Last Updated: 2022-12-04 07:35


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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