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Dinosaurs, Dogs, Trilobites, and Giant Ground Sloths, Oh My

by Bernard K. Means, director

Scanning a dog ulna.

Scanning a dog ulna.

Yesterday, July 17, 2014, I found myself back at the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH), one of our key partners in creating digital type collections of archaeological materials, including animal bones recovered from archaeological sites.  My primary focus on this visit is to 3D scan the remains of a dog recovered from a burial at the Claggett Retreat site, a nearly 700 year-old American Indian village located in Frederick County, Maryland. In addition to being added to our digital zooarchaeological collection, printed replicas of the 3D scanned elements will be incorporated into public archaeology efforts led by VMNH’s Curator of Archaeology Dr. Elizabeth Moore and others. I was assisted in my efforts by VMNH intern Jessica Clark.

VMNH intern Jessica Clark helps with scanning the dog maxilla.

VMNH intern Jessica Clark helps with scanning the dog maxilla.

I also showed VMNH staff and interns printed replicas of a wide range of 3D digital artifact models the Virtual Curation Laboratory uses for educational, outreach, and teaching efforts.  These include artifacts or animal bones scanned from the VMNH collections.

Some printed replicas--artifictions and ecofictions.

Some printed replicas–artifictions and ecofictions.

Moche figurines.  Replica is on the right.

Moche figurines. Replica is on the right.

Moche figurines.  Replica is on the right.

Moche figurines. Replica is on the right.

While the NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner was recording topological details of the dog skeletal elements, I used the Sense 3D scanner to record data for Dr. Alton Dooley, VMNH’s Curator of paleontology.

Scanning plesiosaur skeletal elements in matrix.

Scanning plesiosaur skeletal elements in matrix.

I scanned a plesiosaur skeletal still in its matrix, a trilobite, and a giant ground sloth (Megalonyx sp.) calcaneus. The resolution of the Sense 3D scanner is relatively course, and was not able to capture very fine details, but does show the overall shape and arrangement of elements in the case of the plesiosaur. I will return on a future visit to obtain a higher resolution scan of these elements.

Megalonyx calcaneus.

Megalonyx calcaneus.

VMNH intern Cat Turk prepared casts of Megalonyx skeletal elements for scanning by the Virtual Curation Laboratory at the request of Dr. Dooley.  VMNH is missing some right or left skeletal elements  of their Megalonyx. The Virtual Curation Laboratory will be able to create the missing bones by scanning left elements and mirroring them to create missing right elements, or vice versa. We can then print the missing elements on our 3D printer.

VMNH intern Cat Turk with a mold used to create a Megalonyx element.

VMNH intern Kat Turk with a mold used to create a Megalonyx  skeletal element.

Dr. Moore, Dr. Dooley, and I also discussed the next stage in the evolving relationship between VMNH and Virtual Curation Laboratory.  In addition to some collaborative research efforts, Virginia Commonwealth University  interns and students working in the Virtual Curation Laboratory will assist in creating a new archaeology exhibit for VMNH to open in Fall 2015.

Scanning the right mandible of a dog and comparing to a replica from Jamestown.

Scanning the right mandible of a dog and comparing to a replica from Jamestown.

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