3D models in Anthropology

April 4, 2017
Claudia A. Engel
Rendered image of a bone

In Spring 2016 Anthropology Professor Krish Seetah partnered with the Stanford Libraries to develop an interactive, digital repository of 3D osteological objects to serve as the materials for his teaching.

Prof. Seetah trains archaeology students in identifying bone fragments, to age and sex individuals, identify pathology, and learn how to reconstruct past environments and patterns of human settlement. 

Scanning of a jaw boneUsing 75 specimens from Seetah's bone collection members of the Libraries' Digitization Team Astrid Smith, Tony Calavano, and Wayne Vanderkuil captured the objects using photogrammetry and structured light scanning as can be seen in this video by Doris Cheung, also of the Digital Production Group.

The models were made available for viewing and download on the Sketchfab platform and will be deposited in the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR) for long term storage and preservation.

This past Winter quarter Prof. Seetah was able to use the models in his class "Introduction to Zooarchaeology", marking a step change to how the class had been taught in the past. Using a high resolution screen controlled by his smartphone Seetah was able to demonstrate the material alongside the physical objects. Students were able to interact with the 3D models using tablet computers. 

Prof. Krish Seetah in the classroomThis project builds on a multi-year collaboration between Prof. Seetah and Claudia Engel, ATS for Anthropology and member of CIDR, integrating iPads and digital notebooks in his teaching. "Having the 3D models opened up completely new ways for me to teach this course" said Seetah. "Not only do the models support an open and collaborative inquiry but the 'virtualization' of the material expands the learning beyond the classroom, allowing students to engage with the teaching materials and class content in a way much more similar to the actual work done in the field. I am very grateful to Claudia and her colleagues at the Stanford Libraries who made this happen." 

There are already other 3D digitization projects in the pipeline, and Stu Snydman, the Libraries' Associate Director for Digital Strategy, is planning to expand the 3D digitization program in the near future.


Claudia Engel

Claudia A. Engel

Academic Technology Specialist and Lecturer, Department of Anthropology