A radiology team in Berlin have successfully CT scanned and 3D printed a replica of an ancient dinosaur bone stored at the Museum für Natuurkunde (Museum of Natural History), Berlin, Germany, having been encased and preserved in plaster.
Between 1909 and 1913, two German palaeontologists, commissioned by the museum, led an excavation that yielded approximately 235 tons of fossil bones in the region of today’s Tanzania. Other fossil remains from Germany were also discovered and stored over the forthcoming years.
It was common practise, for dinosaur bones to be wrapped and protected in plaster of Paris for transportation due to the fragile and brittle nature of these precious objects.
Further exploratory excavation, even by experts, can be problematic as the removal of the plaster jacket may destroy the underlying fossil in question.
CT scans are an ideal form of assessment as they are commonly used to help separate plaster from bone in human bodies that have suffered fractures.
The German radiology team successfully scanned an ancient bone wrapped in plaster – without any disruption to the internal integrity of the fossil. The scan with 3D reconstructions, demonstrated the bone to be a vertebral body (back bone segment) from a Plateosaurus dorsal vertebra. Numerous fracture lines were also demonstrated within the preserved bone. The bone measured 21.11cm in length, 17.78cm in width and 8.74cm in height. (The average adult vertebral body may measure approximately 4-5cm in width).
The team then successfully reconstructed the images in CAD software for 3D printing producing a fantastic replica of the object that could be further analysed, safely held and placed on display.
The research paper has been successfully published in the journal, Radiology:
By Ryan Somma – Plateosaurus trossingensisUploaded by FunkMonk, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8164313