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VCU Archaeology

Digital Mastodon Dentistry and Other Mastodon News

by Bernard K. Means

At the end of this month, I’ll be flying to Hemet, California to participate in the Valley of the Mastodons conference/exhibit hosted by the Western Science Center. The Virtual Curation Laboratory has been quite busy working with the Western Science Center to 3D digitally document mastodon remains, as well as with other institutions including the Museum of the Middle Appalachians and the Virginia Museum of Natural History. I even have a  Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) student, Isabel Griffin, pursuing a VCU Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program  summer research fellowship in archaeological and other scientific illustration. You can read about these efforts in this recent VCU News story and more about the Virtual Curation Laboratory in this second recent story, which also touches on our mastodon work.

bkm_mastodon femur sample

Mastodon femur fragment drawn in three different files from a digital scan of a mastodon at the Western Science Center.

I have been busy 3D printing mastodon bones and teeth, including some obtained from CT scans provided by Dr. Alton Dooley, Director of the Western Science Center. These CT scans have been edited and made printable by VCU forensic anthropologist Terrie Simmons-Ehrhardt. In addition to creating a complete model of a mastodon jaw from the CT scan, Ms. Simmons-Ehrhardt extracted the right teeth from the mandible of the mastodon affectionately known as Max.


Teeth extracted from the right side of a mastodon mandible.


Cross section of mastodon jaw showing roots of extracted teeth.

I am not sure whether my suit case can hold all the 3D mastodon models I want to take with me to the Valley of the Mastodons conference/exhibit, but that will be a matter for a future post.



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