Virtebra @ UWF

University of West Florida archaeologists can now re-create the past. Using a NextEngine 3D scanner and two MakerBot 3D printers, assistant professors Dr. Kristina Killgrove and Dr. Ramie Gougeon and their graduate students are working to digitize artifacts and bones from the Division of Anthropology and Archaeology's collections. Their work in the Virtual Bones & Artifacts Lab -- Virtebra @ UWF -- is pushing the boundaries of archaeology.

The purpose of this project is to bring the past to life for students, museum-goers, and the general public. So far, the team has created 3D models of historical items like pipe bowls and coins as well as osteological material, including an ossified piece of human thyroid cartilage and a whole beaver skull.

The bone replicas will be used by Dr. Killgrove in teaching Human Osteology. Skeletal elements like the cartilage and individual artifacts can be irreplaceable, so having a 3D copy to use in class means no worrying about breakage. Dr. Killgrove has also been able to print bones that colleagues in other countries have digitized, allowing her to demonstrate pathological conditions such as leprosy, which did not exist in the New World prior to Columbus. Digitizing and printing artifacts can also reveal information difficult to see with the naked eye. Graduate student Colin Bean 3D scanned and printed a bale seal discovered by archaeologist Dr. John Worth and was able to amplify the writing imprinted on the seal so that it could be read more easily in the digital model.

Artifacts and bones that have been printed will be used in museum displays that are currently being designed. The displays will allow museum-goers to see a vast range of artifacts that are stored in the archaeology collections facility, and it will allow visually-impaired people to experience the exhibits at the public museum inside the Archaeology Institute at UWF.

The team is also working on using other data, such as LIDAR, to generate scale models of landscapes. New work by the Smithsonian Museum is also allowing the team to print scale models of shipwrecks like the Gunboat Philadelphia.

By leveraging the power of the internet, UWF archaeologists are sharing models around the world and bringing both archaeological and modern technology to UWF students and the public.

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Papers and Conference Presentations
  • Zechini, Mariana and Kristina Killgrove. 2015. Giving 3D scanning a porpoise: Digitizing the zooarchaeological type collection at the University of West Florida. Poster presentation at the 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, April 15-19, in San Francisco, California.
  • Bean, Colin J. 2014. Rebuilding the past: 3D printing in archaeology. Paper presented at the 79th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, April 23-27, in Austin, Texas.
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