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Usage of high-tech 3D scanning technologies over anthropological researches



Scanning of skulls, skeletons and digital sharing of data together with human DNA from the Brest Kujawski region (Central Poland)

The Biobank Laboratory of the Department of Molecular Biophysics of the University of Lodz received funding from the European Funds for the project to create the digital information platform "e-Czlowiek.pl". For this purpose, a modern SMARTTECH3D UNIVERSE 3D optical scanner with 5MPix resolution was purchased, which allows obtaining 73 points per mm2 while maintaining a measurement accuracy of 60 μm. The device operates based on technology using white LED structured light.


The osteological collection was digitized, consisting of the remains of 200 individuals living in Brest-Kujawski from the early Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. The scanned skulls and parts of the post-cranial skeleton will become more available to a wider group of researchers, which will enable a deeper analysis of the relationship and population dynamics from central Poland.



The 3D scanning itself consists of obtaining information about the shape, geometry of the object and creating its virtual, digital copy. As a result of scanning, a point cloud is obtained, i.e. a set that reflects the surface of the scanned item. They are described using three coordinates X, Y, Z and can also store information about the color of the object (R, G, B). Based on the obtained clouds of points, a triangle mesh is created that reflects the surface of the scanned artifact.


3D scanning in the terms of determining kinship and ethnicity of the inhabitants of Kujawy

Scientists have also been able to isolate complete genomes, i.e. Ancient DNA Sequences (aDNA). By juxtaposing with accurate scans of the skulls, anthropologists want to answer questions about how people have changed, as well as determine their kinship and ethnicity. In the past, such research consisted only of checking the morphological features of the skulls - refers prof. Wiesław Lorkiewicz from the Faculty of Anthropology at the University of Lodz. Thanks to the 3D scanning technology, anthropologists have obtained a full digital mosaic of data, which allows for accurate analysis and comparison of changes in the shape of the skulls over the last millennium.



The area in the surrounding of the Brest Kujawski was not chosen by an accident. According to archaeologists and anthropologists, the terrains of central Poland show uninterrupted settlement continuity since the Neolithic period (around 5500 BC), associated with the settlement of the first agrarian communities. Kujawy is also a representative area for the Polish population from the early Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. Created in cooperation with SMARTTECH3D, the digital database of bones and skulls and the genetic database will also allow comparing populations from the last millennium with populations from before our era. Researchers are also trying to determine how diverse was the population living in central Poland.


Studies of human body variability since the early Middle Ages


Anthropologists have also determined the issue of the variation in height of the human body from the early Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. According to their research, the average height of a man in the early Middle Ages was very close to the average from the 1960s. Then there is a clear decrease in body height, which continued uninterrupted until the nineteenth century. During this period, the average man measured just over 160 cm, and this average begins to increase significantly and continues to this day. Scientists are interested in whether this relationship is solely due to environmental matter, living conditions and diet, or whether it can be genetically determined.



According to the researchers participating in the project, the creation of a digital base of human remains and full genomes will contribute to setting new trends in the field of sharing scientific data. Scientists see the necessity to reach out to other researchers who will use digital data for further analysis, as well as history enthusiasts who want to expand their knowledge of this area and former ancestors.

The scanning process is completely non-invasive and contact-less, which allows obtaining accurate measurements of archaeological artifacts without disturbing their structure. The great advantage of scanning using white light is full-color reproduction and high accuracy of 3D scans. An additional advantage of the system is the functions of creating virtual cross-sections of objects, making accurate dimensional analysis or checking the volume and surface area. Anthropologists from the University of Lodz thus received an ideal work tool that allows them to broaden their scope of analysis, which, using standard measurement methods, is simply impossible.

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