3D-Print Your Own Homo Naledi Skull

A free website lets registered users download digital scans of an enormous library of fossils.

Ever felt like cranking up your 3D printer and making fossil recreations suitable for living room décor?

Now you can, thanks to a free website under the auspices of Duke University that allows registered users to peruse a library of some 9,000 digital scans of fossils uploaded to the site from scientists at more than 70 institutions.

The site, MorphoSource, was created by Duke assistant professor Doug Boyer, and the university calls it the "largest and most open digital fossil repository of its kind." Just this month it announced the addition of more than 400 skulls and other bones from 59 species of apes, lemurs, and monkeys.

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The site boasts among its digitized goodies a fossil superstar: Homo naledi, the ancient human that made headlines worldwide when it was found in a South African cave in 2015. MorphoSource made available to site visitors more than 80 scans of bones from the famous fossil find. Including, yes, a skull.

While many institutions have made moves to digitize their fossil collections, MorphoSource says it is one of the only ones that has put all of the images under one roof.

"We're essentially taking bones out of museum catacombs and putting them online," Boyer said in a press release.

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The site offers image files representing bones from more than 500 extinct species. Visitors can rotate the images, zoom in/out on them and run them through a 3D printer.

Among the other scans on the site are Megalodon teeth, vertebrae from the largest snake ever known (Titanoboa), and the bones of a foot-plus-long devil frog.

"Paleoanthropology has been relying on digital data more and more," Boyer said. "Before we released this dataset, only a dozen labs around the world had digital samples that large at their fingertips. Overnight we leveled the playing field in a significant way."

Shown is a 3-D scan of the fossilized skull of Homo naledi.

Two 17,000-year-old skeletons have been brought to life in silicone models of the prehistoric humans at a new exhibit in Bordeaux, France. Artist Elisabeth Daynès created "Chancelade Man" and the "Woman of the Pataud Shelter" based on remains found in France's Dordogne region.

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Daynès, a former prosthetic makeup artist turned sculptor and paleo-artist, spent seven years studying and creating models of the prehistoric humans. She describes her work saying, "I sculpt hypotheses."

The skeleton of the the approximately 60-year-old, blue-eyed "Chancelade Man" stands 6'2" tall. Chancelade Man's remains were discovered in 1888 in a rock shelter at Chancelade, southwestern France.

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The 17,000-year-old skeleton was found below the floor of a shelter in a curled posture -- a position that paleontologists say suggests he had been buried.

Daynès' likenesses are obtained by the computer modelling of multiple data points across the skull. Daynès then creates a silicone reconstruction of what the person could have looked like.

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Also, in the exhibit is Daynès' interpretation of a female prehistoric human based on the skeleton of a woman's remains also found in the Dordogne region.

The silicone model shows a woman, who is thought to have died aged 20 with brown eyes and a round face. "The most important aspect of my sculptures, is the look in the eyes," says Daynès. The

exhibition, called "Chairs de Origines,"

or "The Origins of Flesh" will be on display at a gallery in Bordeaux until December 5.