Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ancient human fossils find modern virtual home

07.06.2006


First discovered 150 years ago, Neanderthals have been studied more widely than any other form of human. Thanks to a new interactive inventory and online catalogue developed in Europe, scientists worldwide can now probe the secrets of this primitive relative from the comfort of their computer.



Neanderthal humans (Homo neanderthalensis) was once common throughout Europe, but died out some 30,000 years ago. Since the discovery of Neanderthal remains in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1856, archaeologists have unearthed its fossils at dozens of different excavation sites, including those in Croatia, Belgium, France and Germany.

“These extensive finds explain why most of the scientific analysis of human evolution has been done on Neanderthals,” says Heinz Cordes, coordinator of the IST project TNT, which stands for The Neanderthal Tools.


After 24 months of work, the project partners have set up the world’s leading scientific network on Neanderthal research. Called the Neanderthal Studies Professional Online Service (NESPOS), it contains an impressive and growing collection of texts and digitised Neanderthal remains such as skulls, teeth and tools.

“Our database now includes 60 per cent of the major excavation sites, 800 human fossil items from 35 archaeological sites and 200 specimens provided by third parties cooperating with the project,” says Cordes of TNT’s core application.

The recently created NESPOS Society is taking over all of the project results and will run the project-developed software and offer it to others. All scientists joining NESPOS can use this professional Wiki-based collaboration platform that allows users to add and edit content collectively. Students and universities are offered free access, though only members of the society can visit every part of the platform.

Before the project started, the partners had to convince scientists and museum curators to share all their knowledge of Neanderthals. Once this was done and formats for the database were agreed, digitisation could begin. This meant scanning artefacts at the highest resolution possible, using portable devices and CT (computerised tomography) machines of the kind found in hospitals.

“For example, some 300 pieces were scanned at the famous Croatian excavation site in Krapina. This was done at high resolution in STL and X3D [format] for the polygonal scans, as well as DICOM, TIFF and PNG [format ] for the CT scans,” says Cordes.

The partners then created virtual-archaeology software tailored for Neanderthal scientists. VISICORE, as it is known, is separate from the database. The suite allows users to visualise and analyse the scans in numerous ways, in both two and three dimensions.

“With our software, the sliced images created by the CT scanner can be twisted and turned in any direction on screen,” says Cordes. Scientists may explore bones and other artefacts in tremendous detail, paving the way for new discoveries – yet without touching or damaging the original items.

“VISICORE could also interest scientists outside of the Neanderthal community,” notes Cordes. “The NESPOS Society is already offering it to dinosaur, archaeology and medicine professionals. The suite’s sophisticated tools could be of use to anyone who has to measure and compare high-tech scans.”

NESPOS has opened a new area of scientific work, believes Cordes. “Older scientists working in the fields of palaeoanthropology and archaeology tend to be excavation specialists and focus on the physical side of their work,” he says. “But they too are beginning to realise the value of this new database, such as when examining artefacts in detail on a computer screen.” The virtual-exhibition features of NESPOS also demonstrate how museums can manage and display their scientific collections to the public.

Dissemination partner National Geographic has featured the project on ArchChannel, its cultural-heritage publications and internet portal. To date, ArchChannel has presented the TNT’s scientific results in its German-language monthly magazine and produced a linked special edition on mankind’s evolution.

Looking ahead, Cordes highlights the importance of offering free access to the project’s tools: “Young scientists in the Neanderthal field benefit, since this access saves money on travel and opens up what was once a fairly closed community.”

Some of project partners are currently working with the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany – not originally a project partner but now a NESPOS member – on mobile scans. Moreover, the NESPOS Society is working with the European Virtual Anthropology Network (EVAN) to spawn a new generation of researchers familiar with virtual scientific-collaboration tools.

Tested extensively in workshops across Europe, the open-source VISICORE suite is to be commercialised through NESPOS. The database may also generate spin-offs, since the creator, PXP Software, intends to market its expertise on creating such an application.

Tara Morris | alfa
Further information:
http://istresults.cordis.lu/
http://istresults.cordis.europa.eu/index.cfm/section/news/tpl/article/BrowsingType/Features/ID/82290

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht NASA CubeSat to test miniaturized weather satellite technology
10.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht New approach uses light instead of robots to assemble electronic components
08.11.2017 | The Optical Society

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

From Hannover around the world and to the Mars: LZH delivers laser for ExoMars 2020

21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Borophene shines alone as 2-D plasmonic material

21.11.2017 | Materials Sciences

Penn study identifies new malaria parasites in wild bonobos

21.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>