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VCU Archaeology

Of Mummies, Mastodons and a Bear Named Muggins

by Bernard K. Means

bkm_2018-05-23 15.54.07Last week, on May 22, 2018, I returned to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio, and spent a few days there. I was at this family museum, which includes a small zoo, in late January of this year. On this earlier visit, I was using the recently acquired Go!Scan 50 to 3D scan a mummy sarcophagus associated with an Egyptian woman named Nesiur. I can emphatically state that, when using a new item of technology, starting with a mummy sarcophagus that needs to immediately be put on exhibit is not an ideal situation. Since that late January visit, I’ve become more accustomed to the quirks of the Go!Scan 50 and decided that I it would be wise to rescan the mummy sarcophagus and obtain a more accurate and more complete 3D digital model. Thankfully, Senior Curator Bill Kennedy was happy to facilitate this new attempt.

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1980s-era forensic reconstruction of Nesiur (right) and half-scale 3D print of a 3D scan (left)

I brought with me a number of 3D printed items. These included items created through successful scans of Egyptian items on an earlier visit, including a half-scale model of a 1980s forensic reconstruction of Nesiur from  a contemporaneous CT scan. However, thanks to a much more recent CT scan, and the work of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) forensic anthropologist Terrie Simmons-Ehrhardt, I was able to  bring along a highly accurate 3D print of Nesiur’s skull that Terrie extracted from the CT scan.

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VCU alumnae Madelyn Knighting holds a skull she painted that was extracted from a CT scan by Terrie Simmons-Ehrhardt.

This came in handy when museum goers came by as I did a new 3D scan of Nesiur’s coffin just outside her current exhibit.

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The Boonshoft Museum’s Bill Kennedy shows the replica skull of Nesiur to interested museum visitors.

Other than this work with Nesiur’s coffin, much of my short second visit to the Boonshoft Museum was spent 3D scanning various Ice Age animals, including mastodon and mammoth bones, as well as skeletal elements from a stag moose and a molar from a stegodon, another elephant relative, from China.

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The museum also has a saber toothed cat from the La Brea Tar Pits which I 3D scanned.  The saber teeth are actually casts but the remainder of the skull is real.

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I did 3D scan elements of some contemporary animals, including two whale vertebra, a giant clam shell, and an ivory-billed woodpecker and a bald eagle, the latter two preserved through taxidermy.

Finally, I also 3D scanned the cranium and mandible of a bear named Muggins. Muggins was kept as a pet and roadside attraction by a Mr. and Mrs. Grindle for 41 years. The bear met a tragic end in 1968 when she escaped, fell into Clifton Gorge, and died. The corpse was set on fire by some apparently intoxicated individuals who found it and the head was  removed with an axe. It is now part of the collections of the Boonshoft Museum.

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