Virtual museum brings thousands of digital specimens to your desktop, in 3-D
3-D scan of the fossilized skull of Homo naledi, an ancient human whose remains were discovered in a South African cave. The creature is one of more than 500 extinct species whose fossil scans are available for anyone to download at http://MorphoSource.org. Reconstruction by Peter Schmid and Ashley Kruger, University of the Witwatersrand.
Duke assistant professor Doug Boyer’s office is more than 8,000 miles away from the vault at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the fossil remains of a newly discovered human ancestor, Homo naledi, rest under lock and key.
But with a few clicks of his computer’s mouse, he can have models of any one of hundreds of naledi bone fragments delivered to his desk in a matter of minutes.
Paleontologists like Boyer frequently travel halfway around the world to examine such unique and fragile specimens. That is, assuming their curators will even allow such access.
But the Homo naledi specimens are a different story. They, and hundreds of other species, are now available in a free online database of digital scans that anyone can download and print in 3-D.
“We’re essentially taking bones out of museum catacombs and putting them online,” Boyer said.