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 Magnetic Quantum Objects in a "Nano Egg-Box"
25.07.2017 | Universität Wien

nachricht 3-D scanning with water
24.07.2017 | Association for Computing Machinery

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather

25.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Strength of tectonic plates may explain shape of the Tibetan Plateau, study finds

25.07.2017 | Earth Sciences

The dense vessel network regulates formation of thrombocytes in the bone marrow

25.07.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>