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3D Printing: Free Site Allows 3D Printing of Fossils

Feb 18, 2016 04:44 PM EST
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Ancient fossils, including that of the ancient human Homo naledi from a South African cave (announced in September), can now be 3D-printed from online scans and set up on your desk for a closer look. It's a case of prehistoric items -- some of them with very high profiles -- reaching three dimensions and time for examination in our own households, in the current day. 

That Johannesburg-based fossil and more than 500 extinct species are available to download and print in three dimensions from a free database called MorphoSource.org. The site is supported by Duke University and grants from the National Science Foundation. The Homo naledi fossil itself was reconstructed by University of the Witwatersrand's Peter Schmid and Ashley Kruger.

"We're essentially taking bones out of museum catacombs and putting them online," Doug Boyer at Duke University, who launched the site in 2013, said in a release.

What's more, high-profile archaeological discoveries have been shared on the site. For instance, when naledi was announced in September 2015, study authors sent MorphoSource scans of more than 80 key specimens.

Scans keep arriving, too. More than 70 institutions have uploaded nearly 9,000 image files since 2013. More than 500 species are present, too. These include water beetles from New Guinea, parts of a dinosaur that lived in swamps, Telmatosaurus, and a 40-thousand-year-old Neanderthal skull from Israel.

Hannah Morris Introduces Us to Homo Naledi

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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