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VCU Archaeology

Icing on the cake of my Anthropology degree

Note that this blog post was completed by a Spring 2017 intern in the Virtual Curation Laboratory as part of the internship requirements.

by Claire Sands

My name is Claire Sands and I interned with the Virtual Curation Lab during the spring semester of 2017, this semester was my last here at VCU. This experience has been the icing on the cake of my Anthropology degree and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity. It has expanded my horizons of the many facets of anthropology, the role of anthropologists and technologies that are allowing us to become more in touch with the past.

The Virtual Curation lab very much defies a common college internship stereotype; paper pushing, bathroom cleaning and menial tasks. This lab encompasses many different things that students have the freedom to focus on depending on their interests; art, editing, animation, 3-D scanning and printing, attending events and conferences and much more. There was always something to do and every shift there was a relaxing getaway from the stresses of life.


Here I show the front portion of a 3D printed skull from India in an early stage of its forensic reconstruction.

Approaching the internship, I was geared towards working with and learning more about ecological, zoological, biological and cultural objects. As an anthropology major and an environmental studies minor, I am particularly interested in human’s adaptation to changing environments and survival strategies as well as natural history and ecology. There were many objects coming through the lab pertaining to those themes; weapons, tools and animal bones galore. I was very excited that we would be working with ancient and prehistoric animal remains such as the Mastodon and giant beavers.

My very first task in the lab was to clean up dog bones that were uncovered from a sacred dog burial site. The lab received the skeleton fully (partially?) intact and I enjoyed recalling anatomical features I learned in human evolution last semester. With printing in general, there were some challenges along the way. Some of the printed objects were fragile and broke or did not turn out as expected, some objects were more difficult to paint than others, good thing that with 3D printing you can try again!

I have a small collection of pictures I took throughout the semester. I had to paint several objects with a “rusty” coating and I was impressed by how realistic they turned out so I took pictures to send to my friends asking for a second opinion. The picture on the left is a rusty painted 3D print of stirrup. The picture on the right is a replica of a rusty hoe from Jamestown.

This semester in the Virtual Curation Lab has been a very positive experience; it is such a clever and unique place. 3D printing is a relatively new(er) technology so it is fascinating and groundbreaking that it can be used for archaeological research. I really admire the work of the lab;  providing classrooms and museums with printed replicas of historical objects is extremely beneficial to one’s learning and understanding. I wish these objects were utilized in the archaeology classes I have taken. I am excited to see all that the Virtual Curation Lab will accomplish and I hope to continue to be a part of it! Thank you!






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