Replicating Animal bones Using 3D Scanning

3D scanning technology is becoming more and more available to researchers (zooarchaeologists) who study faunal remains.  This blog presents four 3D scans of archaeological bones of wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) recovered the Fox Farm, a large Fort Ancient (A.D. 1300-1650) site in Mason County, Kentucky.


The bones shown here include two mid-wing bones (ulna), and two lower-leg (tarsometatarsi) bones.  The 3D images were created with a NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner that uses laser light to record surface attributes of an object.  Using computer software, such as Scanstudio HD and Meshlab, it is possible to create scaled, downloadable pdf files of each bone.  Using programs, such as Sketchfab, it is possible to export our 3D models as animated gif files.


One ulna is a nearly whole right element while the other is the mid-portion of a left ulna shaft.  The shaft specimen exhibits what appears to be a healed fracture, as indicated by the pronounced protrusion extending nearly perpendicular to the shaft.  Bird limb bones with healed fractures are very rare in wild birds.  Thus, when found at archaeological sites they are often interpreted as evidence that the bird was held in captivity, which allowed time for the bone to heal.  Did the inhabitants of Fox Farm have captive turkeys within their village?


Tarsometatarsi are straight bones that were frequently used by Native Americans to make awls, pins, and needles.  The tarsometatarsi shown here include a nearly whole right element, and a distal and shaft portion of a left element diagonally cut off less than 2 inches from the condyles.  The cut edges are ground down smooth and do not intersect on the shaft but rather the shaft is broken at the apex.  This suggest that recovered segment is wastage from the production of at least one tool.



These 3D scanned images included in this blog are intended to be part of a bone reference collection that can be used by researchers to compare worked bone from different sites.  Once created, these 3D images can be examined by researchers and others interested in learning more about the types of worked bone objects Native Americans produced prior to European contact.  Using a 3D printers, replicas of these bones can be reproduced for use in the classroom.


Bruce L. Manzano and Thomas Royster