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Anthropology
2018 Project Proposal

Rebuilding Neandertals from fossil fragments*

Zachary Cofran (Anthropology)

Fossils from the site of Krapina Cave in Croatia date to 130,000 years ago, constituting the oldest and one of the largest accumulations of Neandertal bones in the world. Most of the fossils are fragments, many of which have been pieced together into partial skulls and other parts of the skeleton by physically testing the fit of different pieces. Despite these partial reconstructions, there are still scores of unassociated fragments, leaving much left to be learned about the biology of these Neandertals.{P}This project will use modern, computer-based methods to generate new reconstructions of Krapina Neandertal skulls, including the under-appreciated fragments. The primary goal of these reconstructions is to ascertain brain size, shape and growth within the sample, for comparison with modern humans. Data include high resolution 3D models of the original Neandertal fossils, and computed tomography (CT) scans of modern human skulls. Students will work with these digital data on computers, and with 3D print outs of fossils. We will also make a few trips to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, to collect data on human skeletons using a 3D surface scanner.      

Prerequisites:  Students should have taken at least one course in biological anthropology (i.e., Anth 120, 232 or 305). Previous experience with both skeletal anatomy and computer-based methods (CAD or CT scans) is also ideal.   

 How should students express interest in this project?  Students should email me (zcofran@vassar.edu) to inquire about, and express interest in, this project.