Stories in Bone Still Told: Digitization and Replication of Human Remains

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Kristy D. Henson, Marshall University Department of Biological Science, Huntington, WV
Human skeletal analysis is a sensitive subject in North America. Laws and regulations that surround the excavation and research of human skeletal material make it exceedingly difficult to use these remains to characterize native populations. Recent technology has the potential to solve this dilemma. Three-dimensional (3D) scanning and 3D printing can create replicas of the skeletal material, allowing the original specimens to be repatriated in a timely manner. Replicas are made from high performance composite and suitable for both research and teaching. To assess the potential of this methodology, I compared the processing time, accuracy and costs of medical computer tomography (CT) scans to an Artec Eva portable 3D surface scanner. Using both methodologies I scanned one individual uncovered during an archaeological excavation of a Fort Ancient civilization in Cabell County, West Virginia in the 1980s. Replicas of the remains are created on a ZPrinter 3D rapid prototyping machine. I hypothesize that the Artec Eva will create digital replicas with < 3% error based on Buikstra & Ubelaker standard osteometric measurements. This was tested by comparison of measurements from the material and CT data. I also hypothesized that the ZPrinter will create replicas of < 3% error meaning they can be used for research and teaching. Results show that larger bones recorded by the Artec Eva have < 3% error of the original specimen but smaller more detailed images have > 3% error. While the CT images have < 3% accuracy. The Artec Eva scanner is inexpensive in comparison to a CT machine but takes twice as long to process the Eva’s data. The Artec Eva will be sufficient in replication of large elements, but the CT machine is still a preferable means of skeletal replication, particularly small elements. This resulting replica collection will be donated to the Archaeology Laboratory at Marshall University for use in both teaching and research.