Monday, April 29, 2013

CT scans help Anthropology studies

This video has caught my attention few days ago. Field Museum in Chicago has used a CT scan to help them with the face reconstruction of an ancient skull (12,000 to 15,000 year old). The great advantage of using a CT scan is that once you have scanned the skull, you can do the processing and reconstruction of the skull on a computer without having to touch it, which means that the skull is never damaged. The problem here is usually the transport of the skull to the CT scan, which are usually located in hospital or clinics. This time, they used a mobile CT scan, which travels to the museum instead of the skull having to travel. Moreover, the researchers used a 3D printer to obtain a model of the skull, which was then used by a forensic artist to do the final face reconstruction. The motivation behind this new scan was that the researchers were not happy with the face reconstruction done before, which made this skull look "too Neanderthal".

After watching this video, I have look for publications which describe the techniques used, but I haven't found many detailed publications. However, I found this review publication (Lynnerup, N. (2010). Medical Imaging of Mummies and Bog Bodies – A Mini-Review Gerontology, 56 (5), 441-448 DOI: 10.1159/000266031), which I have read and although not too detailed about the CT scanning procedures, I have learned a few things:
- Living tissues require different processing that dead tissues, because Hounsfield units are different. Bone tends to de-mineralize, while soft tissues tend to become denser (probably due to surrounding minerals).
- Even that this type of scans are done since the 70's, new CT scans are also done, because technology has improved that new findings arise.
- CT data can be easily shared with other scientists, while skulls and mummies can't.


  1. I just came to your post and reading the above thing, it is very impressive and it is a very nice blog. Thanks a lot for sharing this.
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  2. Hello. Thanks for your comment. I see that you also post about medical imaging in your google+ profile. Do you have a blog or a facebook page?

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    1. Dear Francis, Thank you for your kind comment! Let me know if you have suggestions for future posts.

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