There’s plenty of printable 3D model repositories these days, but none quite like African Fossils.
The site, which has been around since 2011, hosts dozens of high-quality 3D models based on, well, African fossils. These fossils include bones of the most famous prehistoric hominids, and even modern humans. There’s also plenty of fossil 3D models of ancient African animals, some of which may or may not be related to our ancestors.
You can search for fossils in their archive, and there is an ability to apply some filters to get at your selections quickly.
They say of their mission:
“African Fossils seeks to increase public knowledge about prehistory by harnessing modern technology. Through digitizing otherwise inaccessible discoveries, African Fossils is dedicated to creating a growing repository of 3D models of significant fossils and artifacts, thus making them freely accessible to all. By allowing members to share their 3D printed creations, we hope to aid teachers, students and enthusiasts to exchange ideas and to be inspired to think about our tenuous place on the planet.”
How were these 3D models obtained? The organizers have access to the actual fossils, and were able to prepare 3D scans. Scanning seems to have been done using a variety of approaches, including photogrammetry and Autodesk tools, as well as handheld 3D scanners from Artec 3D.
I first learned of this site when I met Samira Leakey in 2013; she’s pictured here, holding what appears to be a full-size replica of a Homo Habilis fossil skull. She’s the granddaughter of the famous Leakey family, who discovered many of the most intriguing ancient hominid fossils.
African Fossils provides an online 3D viewer where you can view the scans from all angles, even zooming in for increased detail. You can also download the 3D model. Model quality is very good, as you can see above.
Two download formats are provided: a full-size 3D model suitable for direct 3D printing, and a “cardboard” 2D layout. This layout includes lines designating outlines for layers that can be stacked up to form the full object. We’ll stick with the 3D printable model, though.
Downloads are available if you register at the site, and there is no charge to do so.
I haven’t seen these 3D models elsewhere, so they are likely unique to this site, perhaps due to licensing. Nevertheless, these 3D models could be interesting to download and 3D print for children, adults interested in ancient humans, and of course, educators.
I’m going to try 3D printing some of these, but if you do, make certain you use support structures, as these models invariably do not have flat surfaces.
Via African Fossils