As an archeologist, bones are surely important to you. Rowan Webb, a deceased archaeologist, had his skeleton turned digital.
Webb passed on in 2010 after a battle with cancer. After his long career leading many a research project in archaeology, he requested that his body be used for science after he died.
A team of researchers and technical experts from the University of New England (UNE), where Webb carried out his research, designed and created the world’s first digital human skeleton based on Webb;s physical skeleton, in honour of his dying wish.
After many years, the digital skeleton is finally complete, and UNE Anatomy will begin teaching with the online 3-D models this week. It is also available for viewing online.
“Rowan had no idea about the technology that we would have at our disposal, and that it could make his gift available to the whole world so that anybody could learn from him,” said UNE zooarchaeologist Dr. Melanie Fillios, who initiated and led the digital project to Phys Org.
The skeleton was created using the photogrammetry technique which is used to document and produce 3D models without ruining ancient artifacts. Every single one of Webb’s bones were photographed.
UNE palaeontology Ph.D. candidate Michael Curry told Phys Org that he took about 30,000 photos of Webb’s skeleton. It took around a year to photograph everything, reconstruct them, and edit them so that they reflected the images correctly.
The archaeology team at UNE wants their online 3D models to become part of a worldwide, freely accessible resource for teaching and research one day. Associate Professor Peter Grave said that they would like to have a database that crosses disciplinary boundaries. One where “all universities and museums can pitch in to contribute models into the public sphere where it can be used to research worldwide”.