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Saturday, May 31 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
(Objects Session) Restoration by other means: CT scanning and 3D computer modeling for the re-restoration of a previously restored skull from the Magdalenian Era

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The Cap Blanc skeleton was discovered in France in 1911 by a workman who struck it in the head at least once with a pickaxe while lowering the floor of the recently excavated rock shelter at Cap Blanc. The skeleton proved to be a Magdalenian era human and was subsequently acquired by the Field Museum in 1927. The skeleton was initially displayed with the fragmentary skull, but, in the early 1930's, the skull was reconstructed under the direction of Dr Gerhardt von Bonin of the University of Illinois.

In 2012, we were able to use a mobile CT scanner to image the bones of the skeleton, including the skull. Upon examination of the scans, it became apparent that some features of the skeleton's splanchnocranium (sloped brow, small orbital cavities, and projecting nasal bones with large nasal opening) were anatomically incorrect, perhaps due to a self-consciously primitive restoration of the skull. We briefly considered reversing the 1930's reconstruction and using the original skull fragments to produce a more anatomically realistic reconstruction, but the importance of the specimen and the robust nature of the adhesive and gap-fill used in the 1930's reconstruction made the risk of damage while reversing the restoration unacceptably high. We therefore attempted to restore the skull to a more anatomically feasible state by converting the CT scan to a 3D software model showing each fragment in its current alignment, and then repositioning the fragments in software to produce a new restoration which could be viewed in software. We then 3D-printed the new reconstruction for further study. In this paper we discuss the methods and software used for segmentation and repositioning the fragments, the problem of arriving at a definitive reconstruction by this method, some commentary on 3D printing as a long-term preservation problem and our final results.

avatar for JP Brown

JP Brown

Regenstein Associate Conservator, The Field Museum
JP Brown holds degrees in Archaeological Conservation from University College Cardiff and Computer Science from University of Chicago. He taught practical and preventive conservation at UCC until 1993 when he moved to the US. For ten years he worked with WB Rose & Associates on designing and building monitoring systems for historic structures including Independence Hall and Mount Vernon; he began working at the Field Museum in 2002. JP's research... Read More →


Robert D. Martin

A. Watson Armor III Curator of Biological Anthropology, Field Museum of Natural History

Saturday May 31, 2014 11:30am - 12:00pm
Grand Ballroom B