A Giant Ground Sloth is 2 ½ Fourth Graders Tall

By Bernard K. Means, Director, Virtual Curation Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University

Go to any public archaeology event or even an academically oriented archaeology conference, and you will probably see at least one button, shirt, or even a ball cap emblazoned with an image of a dinosaur (probably a Tyrannosaurus rex) contained within a thick red circle and bisected by a thick red line.

Below or surrounding that image might be the words “Archaeologists Don’t Dig Dinosaurs.” I use this image myself on my first day of lecturing in my Introduction to Archaeology course each semester. One of the basic messages that I try to impart on that first day is that archaeologists are not paleontologists.

3D scanning a bone from an enslaved context at VMNH pictured is Dr Elizabeth Moore
3D scanning a bone from an enslaved context at VMNH pictured is Dr Elizabeth Moore. Image by author.

We might like dinosaurs or other prehistoric animals, but if those animals lived before or did not interact with humans or their hominid ancestors, those “terrible lizards” and other ancient creatures fall outside of our purview. I also warn any budding archaeologist that they will get asked, probably by a relative and certainly by a member of the public, if they have “found any dinosaurs yet?” after their first, second, third, ad nauseam, dig.

However, I’ve begun to rethink over the last few months that image of the dinosaur struck out in red.

This reassessment of the phrase “Archaeologists Don’t Dig Dinosaurs” has grown out of my work in the Virtual Curation Laboratory with various natural history museums, notably the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) in Martinsville, Virginia, the Western Science Center (WSC) in Hemet, California, and the Las Vegas Natural History Museum (LVNHM), not surprisingly in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Beginning at VMNH, I found fossils creeping into what I 3D scanned. Paleontologists at that museum asked if I would not mind scanning the occasional fossil in between artifact scans, such as Miocene whale vertebrae, a lungfish bone from Chile, or various Ice Age animals. In fact, for VMNH right now, I am 3D printing mirrored 3D scans of giant ground sloth bones—VMNH has lefts and rights and needs rights and lefts.

3d scanning a prehistoric camel skull at WSC
3D scanning a prehistoric camel skull. Image by author.

I’ve actually been 3D scanning and 3D printing quite a few Ice Age animal bones over the last year. In addition to the aforementioned giant ground sloth bones from VMNH, I have 3D scanned giant beaver (VMNH), mastodon (VMNH, WSC, and a private collection), mammoth (VMNH, WSC, LVMNH), short- faced bear (WSC), American camel (WSC, LVMNH) and dire wolf (LVMNH)—yes dire wolves were once real and not just something made up for Game of Thrones. These animals are all now extinct—and these fossils do potentially represent an overlap between archaeology and paleontology as these animals all lived at the time after humans entered the Americas. Some scenarios even argue that humans are partly or solely responsible for the extinction of these Ice Age megafauna (e.g. big animals!). But, the dinosaur bones I 3D scanned at LVMNH or the dinosaur tracks I 3D scanned at VMNH well predate the presence of humans in the Americas or anywhere across the globe, as dinosaurs went extinct millions of years before humans first evolved.

3D scanning an allosauroid vertebra at LVMNH
3D scanning an allosauroid vertebra at LVMNH. Image by author.

 

So, why bring up dinosaurs, or even the fossils of Ice Age animals from contexts not associated with human activity? This is because I increasingly find myself in settings that are less archaeology oriented, but more focused on how 3D technologies—particularly 3D printing—can help inform the past. And, I am talking to audiences that are generally interested in the past—whether the human past or an even deeper past. I want to encourage and celebrate this interest, this fascination with science, and not be quite so pedantic about, ”Well, no, I don’t do dinosaurs, ask someone else.” Paleontologists, as well as archaeologists, are also interested in public outreach and share our goal of teaching people about the past—our disciplinary differences are important, but I think we need to sometimes blur these boundaries.

3D scanning maeve foster
Scanning Maeve Foster.

Which gets me to the title of this blog. On May 1, 2017, I was invited to speak to the soon-to-be retired Judith Fitzpatrick’s fourth grade class about applications of 3D printing, and I brought along a wide selection of recent 3D prints, including artifacts from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and India, animal bones from archaeological and modern contexts, and various fossils, including a giant ground sloth claw. I also had with me a 3D print of a 4th grader—Maeve Foster—who had interviewed me the previous month for her class, as she is interested in 3D printing. Maeve was out ill that day, but her fellow classmates were fascinated that she was there in miniature 3D-printed form, and they placed her figure on her desk. The students really liked the opportunity to handle the replicated objects, and to discuss their significance.

3D printed giant ground sloth claw
3D printed giant sloth claw. Image by author.

 

maeve foster 3D
3D printed Maeve Foster. Image by author.

They were also glad to find out that they could download and 3D print some of the objects from our Sketchfab site. One of the items that I passed around that was of great interest was a 3D printed giant ground sloth claw, 3D scanned originally at VMNH. A young 4th grader asked how tall giant ground sloths were, relative to 4th graders. 4th graders not being a standard measure in archaeology or paleontology, I asked if one of the students would offer up their height. A young girl quickly stated that she was 4 feet tall. So, this makes the extinct giant ground sloth 2 ½ 4th graders tall.

setting up 3D prints at Short Pump elementary school
Setting up 3D prints at Short Pump Elementary School.

I certainly think the future of public archaeology—and public paleontology—as well as educational applications will be found in the chirping and beeping of the 3D printer. For more on educational applications of 3D printing, I refer the reader to this recent blog: Enhancing archaeological research with 3D printing.


In the Virtual Curation Laboratory, a team of Virginia Commonwealth University undergraduate students and alumni works under project director Dr. Bernard K. Means to digitally preserve the past and share it with the world. Check out and download digital artifact models on our Sketchfab page.

World History, PBL, and 3D Archaeology

Reading about archaeology and museums and ancient civilizations can be a lot like reading about anything else at school – some kids might find it moderately interesting, while others probably would not. But what if students could play the role of archaeologists and museum curators, researching and creating their own museum exhibits using the very latest in super-cool modern technology?

I teach a World History survey course to 8th graders in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The scope of the content covers time from the Paleolithic Era to 1500 CE, and in the first few weeks of school, students are introduced as much to the study of history as to the content. In a virtual meeting with an archaeologist, my co-teacher and I got the idea for a Project-Based Learning (PBL) experience, culminating with a museum exhibit, complete with 3d-printed artifacts and augmented reality software, to showcase their learning to their parents. Below is the outline of the PBL.

The Entry Events:

img_3330I. Meeting with a Professional:

During the first month of school, students met (via Google Hangouts) a real archaeologist, Sarah Miller, and were introduced to the field, learning how the science of archaeology helps us understand the past. Miller told us about her work and shared how new advancements in technology improve knowledge of the past. (The Standard of Learning related to this lesson states, “Students will be able to explain how archaeological discoveries are changing present-day knowledge of early peoples.”) She discussed how archaeologists can get a replica of artifacts as 3d printables,
and sent us this picture of a Sumerian ziggurat. She said scans of the ziggurat and thousands of other ancient artifacts were available for free in museum libraries on the img_7400internet. Anyone can download them and print the artifacts in 3d (though of course many would be miniature versions of the originals, since few people have pyramid-sized 3d printers.)

II. Teacher’s Personal Experience with a Museum:

Last summer, I visited the Louvre and I showed students some pictures, sharing with them how meaningful it was for me to see artifacts from civilizations I have taught about for years (civilizations they are about to study — Mesopotamia). I then introduced the Museum project: Students would create a museum exhibit on a civilization or topic and have the opportunity to choose an artifact to print using our school’s 3d printer.

III. School Vision: Involving stakeholders

We are a school that needs our parents to feel connected, so I invited Mrs. Frazier, our principal, to talk to students about how much we want their parents to feel welcome at our school. She expressed that students can help by inviting their own parents to see their museum exhibit on Parent Teacher Conference Night.

THE MAGIC: PROJECT BASED LEARNING

Phase 1: Introducing the topic

img_3817I introduced the task and driving question for students, “How do we as museum staff create an exhibit to show the achievements of our topic?” Topics included empires of Mesopotamia, kingdoms of Egypt, and empires and religions of classical India. Our Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT) and I used the book Learning on Display to help us organize the process and create rubrics for assessment. We began with a Gallery Walk and students reflected on the following:

  • What is a Museum?
  • Why do we have museums?
  • What makes museums engaging for 8th graders?

Phase 2: Research

img_3853Students completed a research guide to learn more details about the society they were studying and determine what made their topic historically significant.

The teachers created questions directing students to find information aligned with the Virginia Standards of Learning (what students are supposed to be learning).

Phase 3: Exhibit Planning


img_3867Students planned their exhibit, and considered these questions:

  • How will we show what is important to remember about our topic?
  • How will we get visitors to experience our story?
  • What will our completed exhibit look like?
  • Will our exhibit work?

img_3865In groups, students showed their plan on large paper so that they could receive feedback from fellow students to inform their revisions.

After the plans were posted, students completed a gallery walk, viewing their peers’ plans to offer feedback that should be specific, helpful and kind. Students used post-it notes, and based on the protocol I learned at Buck Institute, they were given sentence starters: I like to commend an idea, I wonder to ask clarifying questions, and I have to offer a suggestion.

Upon being asked to reflect on the gallery walk, one student said, “criticism is not all bad. . .this is helpful!”

img_3873One group said, “we didn’t get a lot of helpful feedback” so they asked if they could present their plan to the whole class. I thought this was so powerful for students to put themselves “out there” for help.

After receiving feedback, students revised their plans, and were ready to put it all together.

Phase 4: Writing a Label Copy

img_3837Before students were able to print their artifact and set up their exhibit, the label copies were written to help their visitors understand the key points of their display, including the relevance of the artifact. The idea of creating the label copy before the creation of the exhibit is that if they waited until after the exhibit was done, they would be too excited to calm down and “write,” BUT it was wonderful to see them edit several times before the final copy was finished.

Phase 5: Constructing the Exhibit


This was the most exciting part for the students as they saw their research, plans, revision and ideas come to fruition.

Not all students chose to print a 3d artifact; a few students used the program Aurasma, making the exhibits interactive.

Here are a few comments from the students:

img_3959PBL was very good at teaching students to research on a focus and create project that not only teaches the student but others as well. The 3-D printer is a great way to create an artifact since most students can’t go around an archaeological dig. The 3-D printer is also good to create an artifact if a student’s focus was not able to have any historical artifacts. We didn’t really learn about archaeology in the PBL, but Archaeology was taught throughout depending on each focus project. Archaeology and artifacts helped us learn about what influenced the people of the time and what their life was like. – Paulo Pulido

img_3956I liked using a 3d printer because it creates a visual. I learned that archaeology is very time consuming and you have to be patient.

I think using a 3D printer for an artifact is a great idea. It makes the project more hands on.

img_3965On the last day of the project, as students were busily putting their exhibits up, some leaders from the school board – including Dr. Scott Baker, Superintendent and Mr. Keith Wolfe, Executive Director of Secondary Education and Leadership – observed the students preparing their exhibits. They were so intrigued by what we were doing they came back the next night for Parent-Teacher Conference night to see the students showcase their projects. Most of our parents came to interact with their students as they demonstrated their learning of their topic in history as well as the authentic tasks of creating a museum exhibit using real-life tools of the trade in archaeology.  

img_3964As an 8th-grade teacher, I may see 4-5 parents a couple times a year for “Conference Nights,” but more than 40 families came to interact with their children as students shared their learning.

This experience was an opportunity for students to see the relevance of history in a 21st-century setting, where they combined modern technology with the old-fashioned skills of inquiry and collaboration.

 


Sarah Bates King has been teaching for 15 years and has spent most of her career in World History with 8th graders. In 2012, she attended the National Social Studies conference, where she reconnected with a college friend, Sarah Miller,  an archaeologist. Since that time, they have made it a point to have a yearly virtual field trip to introduce urban students to archaeology in real life. She is very passionate about the study of human history and the humanities, and instills in her students the love of History. Outside of teaching, she enjoys relaxing with yoga retreats, running and spending time with her husband and two girls. In her downtime, she processes and reflects with posts to her blog about teaching in light of motherhood and a personal blog about life.  

Bringing Archaeology and 3D Modeling to the K-12 Classroom

Many archeologists, as part of their public outreach efforts, see the recent movement to bring science and math based curriculum into classrooms as an opportunity to introduce both teachers and students to archaeology and anthropology. This trend has also caused schools and programs to reach out to archaeologists and other scientists to present to their students. However you end up standing in front of thirty 5th graders, there are some things that will help you achieve your goals and survive to see another invitation extended to you.

I would argue that archaeology is uniquely suited to classroom presentations in that it covers every subject being taught in today’s schools, especially when 3D modeling is included, and is an inherently hands on and accessible science. In order build an easy to use guide for people interested in bringing 3D modeling and archaeology to public education I have drawn on my knowledge of the public education standards and how to best cooperate with public school teachers, gained by five years experience in a classroom. Though I will focus mostly on archaeological modeling and K-12 education in this post, all of the material covered here is applicable to all fields of anthropology, all subfields of archaeology, and really any field of science.

Getting into the classroom

The two biggest things to remember when presenting in a kindergarten through 12th grade education setting is time and flexibility. Time is everything to a teacher, and even more important to the students. Frustrations about time are not necessarily exclusive to the time you are taking out of their day by presenting. Sometimes it is the time of day you want to come into the class, and sometimes it is the time of year. This is where flexibility comes in. Here are my quick and easy tips to getting a teacher to say yes, and to have them ask you back:

  1. Contact schools you work with and get a school calendar, or join their Facebook page. If you know what is going on at school a teacher will not turn you down because you asked to come and present on field day. 
  2. Know or ask what topic/subject they are covering and explicitly tell the teacher how the material you are presenting matches that. My other suggestion to this is do not concentrate only on science. See the next section for more details on this. 
  3. Bring ALL necessary supplies (including pencils and paper) and make sure to communicate this with the teacher. Also, if you will be using computers, arrive early and make sure everything is in order for the kids to log on.

Standards

All topics taught by a teacher must meet what they call a standard. These standards can include things like teaching a kindergartener that a book has a front cover and a back cover (standard “LAFS.K.RI.2.5”). Before you freak out I’m not proposing that anyone learn the standards, though they are available for your reading pleasure on every state’s education website. Here are the Florida standards for language arts and math by grade level.

standards
Kindergarten standard for reading. (Source: Florida Department of Education)

 

The chart below connects the four main subjects to 3D modeling and printing in archaeology. The great thing about many topics covered within each subject is that they can be taught at almost every grade level, with varying degrees of difficulty of course. Elementary schools, for example, may only have the students classify according to shape, size, and color whereas middle schoolers are capable of predicting the use of an object and classifying based on those observations. Seeing these parallels will save you some time in writing lessons and will increase the variety of grade levels you can present in.

Subject

Archaeological 3D Modeling

Archaeology (all subfields)

Math

– Scale and ratio
– Conversion of standard to metric
– Fractional measurements
– Coordinate grids
– Laying out a unit (Pythagorean Theorem)
– Positive/Negative numbers
– Angles
– Degrees

Science

– Building experimental models
– Classification
– Documenting results
– Geology
– Weather Cycles
– Evolution
– Chemistry (Carbon 14)

History

– Photography for preservation
– Interpreting sites and items
– Understanding context
– Academic research
– Preserving historic items
– Validating sources

Language Arts

– Creative writing prompts
– Argumentative writing about interpretations
– Academic writing prompts
– Report writing
– Critical dissent
– Concise writing through abstracts
This table is only a sampling of the topics that can be taught per subject, I stuck with general ideas because each school district and each state has their own standards that need to be met.

To help clarify, I will expand upon one topic within each subject and choose a grade level to give a better perspective of how they connect to classroom instruction.

Math: Scale and Ratio

minicatapult1
Min catapults in a math class for exploring math and historic technology. Full article here. (Image by 3dprint.com)

In Florida, most 6th grade students are beginning to learn how to work with ratios and scale modeling. A possible lesson connection could be scaling a building within modeling software so that it could be displayed and explored in a museum by smaller kids. This is a hands-on math intense topic that helps others and has real world applications.

Science: Classification

Elementary students begin to classify objects very early on, by shape and size, as early as kindergarten. Using 3D printed lithic points and pottery students could work on their classifying skills while also handling what would otherwise be fragile artifacts.

magnetized-model-2
For further reading on the power of these models to communicate context, see this post. (Image by Mariana Zechini)

History: Understanding Context

Holding an object only seen in pictures before can often be revolutionary. Changing a person’s perspective and understanding of an item. High Schoolers begin writing research papers early on in their freshmen year, and often write about things they have only seen in books. Physically touching a cannonball that shattered on a tree, like the one printed by UWF students Janene Johnston and Mariana Zechini, can add context to the tree, the cannon ball, and the person who surely escaped death.

Language Arts: Writing

Amazingly, this is often forgotten by archaeologists and yet comprises a large percentage of what we do. Academic writing and writing an opposing critique are skills they will need as they move into college, something we as archaeologists and scientist are painfully aware of. Archaeologist have a unique relationship with journaling and note taking, a skill that many take for granted.

 

By providing some general examples and simple tips, I have given those that desire to bring 3D modeling into a classroom some tools to access the world of education standards. Because this is only a starting point, if you are an archaeologist hoping to do some public outreach or a teacher looking to give some of your standards a new spin with real world applications, please share if you have ideas of your own.

 


Elizabeth Chance Campbell is a Master’s student at the University of Central Florida and will be defending her thesis, on an 1866 watermill, in the spring. She worked in a low income middle school for five years where she taught students with learning disabilities before moving to Georgia, where her wife is stationed in the Air Force. She hopes to take her experience as an educator and as an archaeologist to the next level by creating lessons that can be incorporated into classroom settings with students of all levels.

Against the Flow: Reconstructive Modeling of a Watermill

As an archaeologist, my first experience with modeling came almost as an afterthought to my thesis work. I had an opportunity to present my work as a poster during the Southeastern Archaeology Conference in Athens, Georgia and wanted to show people in a readily accessible visual format what the watermill structure looked like prior to the weather, moss, and debris created what exists today. Much like when an artifact is printed and made available to the public, I had a desire to connect the public to my mill. Once I realized its outreach capabilities, the model I had created became a center point of my research.

Mill two views.png
The mill as it stands today on the left and a scaled reconstruction on the right. (Image by author)
brickandgearattachment
Brick and Gear attachment piece that were recovered during excavations. (Image by author)

I began this model as an attempt to recreate the mill and then develop a scale model. The mill is a mid-nineteenth century watermill that is the focus of my master’s thesis. As it stands today, the mill is a dilapidated concrete foundation nestled on the shore of a creek in Central Florida, the wheel and gears are missing as well as the mill house that would have held milling equipment. Severe disturbance from both water intrusion and modern construction around the area made finding smaller artifacts difficult, and in the end only a few bricks and some metal pieces associated with the axle were recovered.

Since so little was found, I was forced to rethink what I could learn from the mill foundation, rather than a collection of artifacts. As a result, I turned my focus to determining the size of the wheel, the size of the gear and then from that information how much power the mill would have been able to produce. This led me to modeling.

tinkercadmill
Mill as it looked when finished in Tinkercad. From here I was able to have it printed. (Image by author)

While in the field I took measurements with surveying equipment as well as hand tools. I would later use this information to recreate the mill in Tinkercad, an excellent modeling site that is free. I decided to create a scale model of the mill, for several purposes:

  1. I wanted to play with different size wheels and gears and how they would have fit within the existing foundation.
  2. I needed to see what the association was between wood inserts in the floor of the gearbox and a gear.
  3. I wanted to be able to show future audiences how the mill would have looked when first constructed.
Gearbox.png
Gearbox with wood inserts pointed out. These were found after excavating the box. (Image by author)
gearboxmodel
The model in Tinkercad showing the correlation of the gear and where it would have been positioned over the wood insert. (Image by author)

The mill, recreated in Tinkercad, was designed on a 1 inch:1 foot scale, though it was scaled much smaller when printed to reduce cost. With the 3D reconstruction, I was able to visually determine that the wheel would have most likely been between 4 and 5 feet in diameter with a maximum width of 2 feet. Any smaller and the wheel would have lost efficiency. I also found that a gear would have aligned perfectly above the wood inserts in the bottom of the gear box, perhaps serving as a buffer in case the gear bounced against the floor.

The mill was printed using an online printing service and I took the model with me as a visual aid for a poster presentation I gave at the 2016 Southeast Archaeology Conference. Watching grown archaeologists spin the wheel on my model, only confirmed my belief in its ability to capture the public’s interest.

Modeling artifacts has brought them out of the lab and scale models of buildings and machines will bring large or immovable structures into the hands of the public. The educational material this type of reconstructive modeling could produce is vast; math (scale modeling teaches ratios), history (changing technologies can be recreated to give temporal context), physics (calculating horsepower and energy of machines), communication (creating modern instructions on the operation of a historic machine), etc. Making sure that math, history, science, and language arts are all covered is the intent of any archeologist working in schools.

Next week I will review Tinkercad and talk more about its potential in an educational setting.

model.jpg
Final mill model. The wheel and gear are one unit and spin freely on the foundation allowing audiences to physically experience the mill turning. (Image by author)

 


Elizabeth Chance Campbell is a Master’s student at the University of Central Florida and will be defending her thesis, on an 1866 watermill, in the spring. She worked in a low income middle school for five years where she taught students with learning disabilities before moving to Georgia, where her wife is stationed in the Air Force. She hopes to take her experience as an educator and as an archaeologist to the next level by creating lessons that can be incorporated into classroom settings with students of all levels.

I, Object: Using 3D Printed Artifacts to Teach the Past

By Bernard K. Means, Director, Virtual Curation Laboratory

On Monday of this week (October 17, 2016), I was contacted by Brooke Byington, a student teacher at William Fox Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. She is currently a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where I teach. A few years ago, she had taken my Introduction to Archaeology course and learned that I had 3D printed artifacts from Jamestown. For her fourth grade class, she wanted to know if she could borrow some 3D printed replicas for a lesson on archaeology and Jamestown.

 

figure1-brenna-geraghty-left-gives-a-butchered-dog-jaw-to-brooke-byington-right
Figure 1. (Photo by author)

Now, if she was asking for real artifacts, this request would be impossible—the original artifacts are too rare and too fragile. But, for 3D printed replicas, this is not an issue. We have a large number of 3D scanned and 3D printed artifacts from Jamestown—in fact from across the globe. I invited Brooke to visit the Virtual Curation Laboratory (VCL), and she accepted, with a visit scheduled for the afternoon of the next day. That Tuesday morning, I came in and 3D printed an extra butchered dog jaw from the “Starving Time” at James Fort of 1609 to 1610. This period saw desperate English settlers under siege from the native population, and turning to eating anything they could (rats, dogs, horses, and, eventually, people). After the dog jaw was printed, my Laboratory Manager Brenna Geraghty, herself a VCU alumnae, painted the replica to give it an air of verisimilitude (Figure 1).

When Brooke came to the VCL, I was able to share with her the butchered dog jaw and other objects from Jamestown. And, because these were “extra” copies of the 3D printed artifacts, I could give them to Brooke. She would not need to worry about returning them, and this will make it easier for her to develop lessons around these objects.

This is where I see the real power of 3D printed replicas. I think one of the strengths of archaeology is that we use the things we find to tell stories about the people of the past. Sometimes of these stories are clearly linked to particular individuals, places, or times, and others ares more broadly referring to aspects of the human condition.

figure2-3d-scanning-the-poe-key-at-the-poe-museum
Figure 2. (Photo by author)

The importance of 3D scanned and 3D printed items for education is not lost on other educators either. Just a few weeks ago, Gillian Lambert, an 8th Grade English teacher and an English Department Coordinator in the Henrico County, Virginia, school system got in touch with me. She wanted to use the 3D scan of the key found on Edgar Allan Poe’s body that is on our Sketchfab site for a lesson, which she has graciously agreed to allow me to place on our own blog site (link). The key was originally scanned at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum here in Richmond, Virginia (Figure 2).

Last week I talked to educators in two different settings. One was at the Valentine Museum, here in Richmond, Virginia. Jeff Aronowitz, the E. Claiborne Robins, Jr. Director of Public Programs at The Valentine, arranged on October 10 for the two of us to talk about educational technology to Henrico Middle and High School English teachers and Henrico High School social studies teachers, with an emphasis on 3D scanning and 3D printing. We were particularly interested in letting the teachers know that artifacts were available via Sketchfab and other sites that they could 3D print for their lessons. And, of course, we were interested in establishing a dialogue with the teachers to find out how we could help them with their lessons and teaching people about the past and the City of Richmond’s heritage. I had set up a table of artifacts from all over the world that teachers could look at after Jeff and I finished talking about off-the-shelf and low-cost technological solutions for education (Figure 3).

figure-3-jeff-aronowitz-at-the-valentine
Figure 3. (Photo by author)

Two days after that, I was in Colonial Williamsburg for the National Archaeology Educators Conference, organized by Project Archaeology. Here, I was speaking to an audience that included educators and professional archaeologists responsible for public outreach from all over the world. I informed people about the Virtual Curation Laboratory, particularly our strong focus on experiential learning for undergraduate VCU students, as well as our 3D scanning efforts across the world. Again, I had a table of artifact replicas out for people to examine, and a number of attendees seemed inspired to use 3D printed replicas in their own outreach efforts (Figure 4).

figure-4-attendes-at-project-archaeology-examine-replicas
Figure 4. (Photo by author)
figure5-diana-salazar-painting-a-dog-jaw-from-a-19th-century-dog-burial
Figure 5. (Photo by author)

I rely myself on 3D printed artifact replicas as a key way of teaching my VCU students about archaeological methods, particular artifact and bone identification. I can hand out multiple sets of 3D printed objects in a classroom that I have at best for two hours. I have even incorporated 3D printed artifacts into a mapping lesson for my student. Currently, my VCL interns and workers in the lab are creating identification and research kits that will be available for my students next semester, and eventually distributed on the web at a dedicated site. The lessons will be linked to models that can be downloaded, so that they can be used by anyone in the world (Figure 5).

I think that the day is not far off that 3D printed artifact replicas will become a regular part of teaching. Tactile learning is an important tool, and replicas are moving on from simply being seen as novelties to legitimate pedagogical tools.