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The First 3D Database of Fossils, Which You Can Even Print

by Allison Meier on August 27, 2013

Fossils in 3D (via GB3D Type Fossils Online)

Fossils in 3D (all images via GB3D Type Fossils Online)

As often the only remnant we have from long vanished species, fossils are pretty awesome. But as generally drab-colored, heavy forms often hacked out of rock, the digital view doesn’t treat them too kindly. To improve their online visuals and connect a number of museum collections, the British Geological Survey launched the first database of 3D fossils last week.

Fossil in 3D

Fossil in 3D

Called GB3D Type Fossils Online (shortening Great Britain and 3D into a catchy, or at least quickly written, acronym), the database includes not just hi-res images for thousands of fossils from previously separate British collections, but also 3D images you can view with 3D glasses, as well as 3D models that you can manipulate in your screen to rotate to all angles (provided you have HTML5). The project is a collaboration between BGS and the National Museum Cardiff, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Science, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and the Geological Curators’ Group, offering an essential linked database for fossils that were previously divided by distance and databases.

You’re even able to print out the 3D models if you so desire, and in conjunction with the database a contest is currently underway to spot 3D printed fossils among the real ones in 18 museums around the country. Your prize is a tablet loaded, naturally, with a bunch of 3D fossil images.

Anthracoceras cambriense Bisat, 1930

Anthracoceras cambriense Bisat, 1930

The database is fun to explore, although be warned that it is definitely one for the serious fossil researcher. You can’t just type in dinosaur and hope for the best, as the searches are by the scientific taxonomic names. The aesthetics of the database also aren’t anything to get worked up about. However, it’s the images that are extraordinary to explore, so here’s a lovely nautilus shell and an alien-looking trilobite to get you on your digital paleontologist way, or to perhaps start you on your 3D printed fossil collection.

Click here to access GB3D Type Fossils Online.

h/t the Atlantic

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