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3D Printing and Digital Zooarchaeology

The last Passenger Pigeon, a member of a species of birds that once littered the sky in their thousands, died on September 1st, 1914, more than one hundred years ago. 

However, now, according to, researchers are bringing them back to a kind of life.  The Virtual Curation Library was created in 2011 “as part of a Department of Defense funded project titled ‘Virtual Artifact Curation: Three-Dimensional Digital Data Collection for Artifact Analysis and Interpretation’, [whose goal was to] investigate the range of the NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner by using it on a wide variety of subject matter.”  

The Virginia Museum of Natural History provided the post-cranial bones of the Passenger Pigeon, through the guidance of Dr. Elizabeth Moore.  “Brian Schmidt, Director of the Division of Birds at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History was able to provide two skulls for the project.  Marianna Zechini…a graduate student at the University of West Florida, began scanning the bones of passenger pigeons as part of her undergraduate research [at Virginia Commonwealth University].”

The models Ms. Zechini created are now being shared with researchers around the world.  “Those researchers are able to closely examine the 3D models created from every possible angle…the existence of these 3D models allows for accurate measurements by researchers as they compare elements.”

More importantly, these models can now be 3D printed.  “This allows researchers to have access to specimens they can hold in their hands.  It also means that museums and educators can help people make connections with these disappeared animals and help them feel the reality of their absence.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of 

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